Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City
The Abyssinian Baptist Church is among the most famous of the many prominent and activist churches in the Harlem section of New York City.
The church traces its roots to 1808, when visiting free Ethiopian seamen and allied African-American parishioners left the First Baptist Church in the City of New York in protest over being restricted to racially segregated seating. They named their new congregation the Abyssinian Baptist Church after the historic name of Ethiopia. Through the years, Abyssinian Baptist Church moved north on the island of Manhattan, as Harlem became a center of African-American population.
In 1908, Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. became pastor of the church. In 1920, the church purchased property in Harlem for a new Gothic and Tudor style church featuring stained glass windows and marble furnishings.
The church was an important site for religious music in the Harlem Renaissance. It remains a center of the Harlem gospel tradition. Fats Waller's father was once minister at the church. Among many important events, the church conducted the wedding of Nat King Cole and his bride Maria; and the funeral of "The Father of Blues", W.C. Handy, in 1958.
Under the direction of Rev. Calvin O. Butts, the church has continued to be a vital political, social, and religious institution in New York. In 1989 Butts founded the Abyssinian Development Corporation ("ADC"), creating a non-profit arm of the church to work on community development and social services. It has created $500 million in development, including the first new high school in Harlem in 50 years, the first large supermarket, a retail center, and housing.
In 1989, the church was one of the first to respond to Pernessa C. Seele's call for a Harlem Week of Prayer, started to mobilize the religious community in support of people with AIDS and their families. Seele has since founded the Balm in Gilead, Inc., now an international non-profit providing education and prevention for HIV/AIDS, and developing other health initiatives in the US, Africa and Caribbean.
- Abyssinian Baptist Church - Official Website
- Abyssinian Development Corporation, Official Website
- "New Yorkers Seek Religious Roots in Ethiopia", Fox News