The stunning architecture and powerful stories of African Americans are a part of what creates an ongoing interest in Harlem. Perhaps some of the most beautiful buildings in Harlem are the houses of worship. Not only do these institutions bring a unique charm to Harlem, but they also have played an important role in Black history. Some of the world's most famous and beautiful houses of worship can be found on the streets of Harlem. Harlem is home to houses of worship from every major faith and every denomination, as well as the oldest church established in 1660 and the oldest Black church in New York City.
Architectural Style: Neoclassical architecture Established: 1660
Memories from Nina Saxon, East Harlem Resident "As a kid, I remember my Dad telling me about Elmendorft Reformed being the oldest church and how important churches are in the African American community. He stressed to me that this is our history and our culture. When you get older make sure your fnid yourself a church home like this one. As I became older and became a member of Manhattan Community Board #11, I began to understand what he was talking about and how symbolic the church is for East Harlem. During a meeting at the church on the preservation of the African Burial Gound in East Harlem the symbolism of our cultural roots that embodies intergernerational lines was evident.
Architectural Style: Gothic Founded: 1796
"The A.M.E. Zion conference was referred to nationally as the "Freedom Church" for its vital role in the United States abolitionist movement, and was an "Underground Railway" refuge. Sojourner Truth was a member of the congregation, and spoke out from the pulpit against slavery. Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass were members of the A.M.E. Zion conference at other congregations." DID YOU KNOW? The founders of the NAACP, Alexander Walters and Dr. W. E. B. DuBois, were members of Mother A.M.E. Zion Church. Check out the video below to learn more about the Mother A.M.E. Zion Church.
Architectural Style: Gothic and Tudor (Neo-Gothic)
Abyssinian Baptist Church is located on 138th Street between Adam Clayton Powell and Malcolm X Boulevards. The Church is a Baptist megachurch and is affiliated with the National Baptist Convention, USA.
"The Abyssinian Baptist Church values its history as a Christian institution born out of rebellion against racial discrimination, and its commitment to social justice for all. We believe that the church is a house of prayer for all people." The Church was founded in 1808.
Architectural Style: Middle Eastern
Masjid Malcolm Shabazz Mosque is located at 116th St. and Lenox Avenue. It was formerly a Nation of Islam mosque where Malcolm X preached until he left it for Sunni Islam in 1964. "Before becoming a religious structure, the lot used to contain the Lenox Casino, a space which was often rented for meetings by the Socialist Party and used as a theatrical performance venue for a number of then-renowned artists. Built in 1905 and designed by Lorenz F. J. Weiher, the Lenox Casino was raided in 1912 for showing “illegal films” in an escapade grippingly documented by the New York Times."