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This detailed history of the famous Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York City, begins with its organization in 1809 and continues through its relocations, its famous senior pastors, and its many crises and triumphs, up to the present. Considered the largest Protestant congregation in the United States during the pre-megachurch 1930s, this church plays a very important part in the history of New York City.

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Key Features

  • Offers an authoritative history of the Abyssinian Baptist Church
  • Provides stories of a determined people doing extraordinary things by faith
  • Discusses how Abyssinians addressed the perplexities of life in the United States from 1808 to 2008


  • “Upon This Rock”
  • Gathered in Jesus’ Name
  • “Hitherto Hath the Lord Helped Us,” 1901–1908
  • “Forward in a Larger Service”: Adam Clayton Powell Sr., and the Abyssinian Baptist Church, 1908–1937
  • Toward a New Earth: Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Abyssinian Baptist Church, and Prophetic Christianity, 1931–1943
  • “Keep the Faith!”: Abyssinian Baptist Church, the Church of the Masses, 1944–1972
  • “Higher Ground”: Samuel DeWitt Proctor and the Abyssinian Baptist Church, 1972–1989
  • “A Calling to Fulfill”: Calvin O. Butts III
  • “To Serve This Present Age”

Praise for the Print Edition

This much-needed history of the Abyssinian Baptist Church of Harlem is a ‘must-read’ for generations of Americans who want to know the complex and complicated story of the black religious tradition, the black church tradition, and the intersectionality of race, religion, and politics amidst the ever-changing and evolving landscape of life for Africans in New York City—from the days following the Civil War up through the Great Migration and on into the twenty-first century. . . . A debt of gratitude is owed to Genna Rae McNeil, Houston Bryan Roberson, Quinton Hosford Dixie, and Kevin McGruder! These dedicated historians have captured an important segment of black church history and written about it with passion and with care.

—Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., pastor emeritus, Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago

A magnificent history of an outstanding African-American congregation with a national pulpit for its preachers. On the basis of meticulous research, the authors have chronicled the triumphs and the failures, the harmonious unity and the conflicts within the two-hundred-year history of the Abyssinian Baptist Church. . . . This history serves as a model for the history of other church congregations.

—Lawrence H. Mamiya, professor of religion and Africana studies, Vassar College

Abyssinian Baptist has been central to the development of African-American Christianity as a force for social justice. Antislavery in its beginnings, Abyssinian has always taken seriously the Christian injunction to minister to the needy and assert the commonality of all in the sight of God, necessarily beginning at home, among black people. From its second century—the twentieth—to the present, its pastors have been national figures, especially the controversial Adam Clayton Powell Jr. . . . This is a basic resource in African-American history.


Product Details

  • Title: Witness: Two Hundred Years of African-American Faith and Practice in the Abyssinian Baptist Church of Harlem, New York
  • Authors: Genna Rae McNeil, Houston Bryan Roberson, Quinton Hosford Dixie, and Kevin McGruder
  • Publisher: Eerdmans
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Pages: 720

About the Authors

Genna Rae McNeil is a professor at the University of North Carolina and specializes in African-American history and twentieth-century social movements in the United States. She is the author of Groundwork: Charles Hamilton Houston and the Struggle for Civil Rights.

Houston Bryan Roberson is the author of Fighting the Good Fight: The Story of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, 1865–1977.

Quinton Hosford Dixie is the coauthor of Visions of a Better World: Howard Thurman’s Pilgrimage to India and the Origins of African American Nonviolence and coeditor of Courage to Hope: From Black Suffering to Human Redemption.

Kevin McGruder is a professor of African and African-American studies at Lehman College in New York City.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition


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    Digital list price: $31.99
    Save $6.00 (18%)