This Day in History: 1865-05-05

Adam Clayton Powell, an American pastor, community activist, author, and the father of Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr., is born into poverty in southwestern Virginia. Powell worked to put himself through school and Wayland Seminary, where he was ordained in 1892. After serving in churches in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New Haven, Connecticut, Powell was called as pastor to the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York. From 1908 to 1936, he developed the church into the largest Protestant congregation in the country, with 10,000 members. During the Great Migration out of the rural South, thousands of African Americans moved to New York and Harlem became the center of African-American life in the city. During his tenure, Powell supervised the purchase of land, fundraising, and the construction of a much larger church and facilities. He was a founder of the National Urban League, active in the NAACP and several fraternal organizations, and served as trustee of several historically black colleges and schools. Learn more.