The Powell Years


On December 30, 1908, in Abyssinian’s 100th anniversary year, the Rev. Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. became Abyssinian’s 17th pastor. Powell ushered in a new era in the church’s history, known as “The Powell Years.’’

A Social Gospel


Rev. Powell being baptized in the Jordan River during a 1920s trip that was a gift from the Abyssinian congregation for the completion of the Harlem church

Reverend Powell devoted the first 12 years of his pastorate to the spiritual development and reorganization of the church, while promoting the idea of a model church in Harlem that would respond to the religious and social needs of African Americans. His “social gospel” blended social activism with spiritual leadership and set the tone for the church’s ongoing mission of community service. Powell also was an early member of the NAACP, a colleague of Booker T. Washington, and of W.E.B. DuBois, and a participant in many advocacy activities of the Progressive Era.

Rev. Powell in Egypt during the 1920s trip