Adam C. Powell Sr.

From Ohio History Central

Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., was an important African-American clergyman in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries.

Powell was born in Franklin County, Virginia, on May 5, 1865. His parents were former slaves. As a young man, Powell became a coalminer. He eventually found employment as a miner with the Ohio Central Coal Company in Rendville, Ohio, which is located in Perry County. Traditionally, white miners had refused to allow companies to hire African-American miners. William P. Rend, the founder of Rendville and owner of a mine in this community, hired large numbers of African Americans as well as Europeans.

While working in the Rendville mine, Powell decided to dedicate his life to religion. From 1888 to 1892, he attended Virginia Union University. He also attended Yale Divinity School. Powell served as pastor of several churches, including ones in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. In 1908, he became pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York, New York. Under Powell's leadership, this church grew to more than fourteen thousand members by the 1930s, making it one of the largest Protestant churches in the United States of America. He retired as pastor in 1936.

Besides his religious activities, Powell also actively fought for equality for African Americans with whites. He helped found the National Urban League and was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He sought to enhance educational opportunities for African Americans.

Powell died on June 12, 1953. His life illustrates the gradual increase in opportunities for people of all races in Ohio and across the United States of America.

See Also