Information

Richard Allen


Richard Allen was born to slave parents in Philadelphia on 14th February, 1760. He was sold to a farmer in Delaware and in 1777 became a Methodist convert.

His master allowed him to preach in public and in 1786 he purchased his freedom and moved to Philadelphia where he conducted prayer meetings for blacks.

Dissatisfied with the restrictions placed on blacks who attended church services, in 1787 Allen helped organize an Independent Methodist Church. They converted an old blacksmith shop into America's first church for black people.

In 1816 Allen helped establish the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and he was elected as its first bishop. The following year Allen joined with James Forten to form the Convention of Color. The organization argued for the settlement of escaped black slaves in Canada but was strongly opposed to any plans for repatriation to Africa. Other leading figures that became involved in the movement was William Wells Brown, Samuel Eli Cornish and Henry Highland Garnet.

Richard Allen died on 26th March, 1831.


People, Locations, Episodes

*On this date in 1760, Richard Allen was born in Philadelphia. He was a Black religious leader, founder and first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.

Allen was born a slave in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Richard Allen grew up during the American Revolution an era characterized by the advocacy of individual rights, the growth of denominational Christianity, and the inception of the antislavery movement. Around 1768, Allen's owner, a Philadelphia lawyer named Benjamin Chew, sold him, his three siblings, and his parents to Stokely Sturgis, a plantation owner in Delaware. With the permission of Sturgis, Allen began to attend Methodist meetings, and around 1777 he was converted to Methodism.

In the second half of the eighteenth century, Methodism proliferated in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. This Christian denomination emphasized a simple set of virtues that included honesty, modesty, and sobriety. Following his conversion, in 1780 Sturgis agreed to let Allen hire himself out in order to earn money to purchase his freedom for $2000. In addition to doing manual labor, Allen began to preach at Methodist churches in Delaware and neighboring states. In 1786, Allen paid his last installment to Sturgis and became free.

That same year, Allen accepted an invitation to preach at St. George's Church in Philadelphia, a mixed-race congregation of Methodists. Within a short time, Allen dramatically increased St. George's Black membership, and the building could no longer accommodate the growing congregation. White elders at St. George rejected Allen's request for a separate place of worship for African American members and chose instead to construct separated seating within the church by installing a balcony. In 1787, discouraged by the fact that the Black worshippers who had helped construct the balcony would be relegated to sitting there, Allen joined the Rev. Absalom Jones to found the Free African Society, a nondenominational religious association and mutual aid organization. Allen's Methodist fervor, however, drove him to leave the Free African Society after two years because of the organization's nondenominational orientation.

Allen's commitment to Methodism also compelled him to stay at St. George's despite the segregated seating arrangement. One Sunday morning in 1792, Jones challenged St. George's segregated seating arrangement by sitting downstairs. In the middle of the opening prayer two white trustees forced Jones to leave. Allen and other Black members who had been seated in the balcony then walked out of St. George's. Until this incident, few Black Methodists had been receptive to Allen's call for the establishment of an independent Black church. On August 12, 1792, members of the Free African Society founded The African Church of Philadelphia. Because of the Methodists' discriminatory treatment of Blacks, the church was consecrated as part of the Protestant Episcopal Church and Jones became the denomination's first Black priest.

Allen, however, remained faithful to Methodism and used his own savings to buy a former blacksmith's shop and transplant it onto a plot of land he had previously purchased in Philadelphia. After renovations, Bethel African Church opened on February 4,, 1794, and Allen was ordained its deacon. After Bethel was officially initiated at the 1796 Methodist conference, white Methodist officials attempted to gain control over Allen's church, but a Pennsylvania Supreme court ruling in 1807 declared that the Black Methodist congregation owned the property on which they worshipped and that they could determine who would preach there. Following Allen's example, many Black Methodists formed African Methodist Churches in northeastern cities. Because all experienced similar challenges from white Methodists, Allen organized a convention of Black Methodists in 1816 to address their shared problems.

The leaders decided to unite their churches under the name of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Accordingly, they gained control over the governance of their churches and placed themselves beyond white ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Attendant’s elected Allen bishop of the new denomination, a position he held until his death in 1831. The AME Church immediately became a center of Black institutional life. As its leader, Allen created the Bethel Benevolent Society and the African Society for the Education of Youth. He also published articles in Freedom's Journal attacking slavery and organizations such as the American Colonization Society. Because Allen believed enslaved and free Black Americans could be best served through education and religious instruction, he opposed organizations that advocated the migration of Black Americans to Africa.

Although the AME Church initiated missionary efforts in such countries as Haiti and Canada during the late 1820s, Allen kept the church focused on elevating Black Americans, especially those in the South. As he said, "We will never separate ourselves voluntarily from the slave population in this country they are our brethren and we feel there is more virtue in suffering privations with them than fancied advantage for a season." The AME Church proliferated in the South after the Civil War and today has a membership of more than 1.2 million.

Reference:
An Encyclopedia of African American Christian Heritage
by Marvin Andrew McMickle
Judson Press, Copyright 2002
ISBN 0-817014-02-0


Richard Allen [Pennsylvania] (1760-1831)

Born into slavery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 14, 1760, Richard Allen went on to become an educator, writer, minister and founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Benjamin Chew, a Quaker lawyer, owned the Allen family, which included Richard’s parents and three other children. Chew eventually sold the Allen family to Stokeley Sturgis, a Delaware planter.

At age 17 Allen was converted to Methodism by an itinerant preacher. Allen’s master, Stokeley Sturgis, was said to have been influenced by Allen to become a Methodist as well. After his conversion, Sturgis offered his slaves the opportunity to buy their way out of slavery. In 1783, by working at odd jobs for five years, Allen managed to purchase his freedom for $2,000. In the meantime, Allen began to preach in Methodist churches and meetings in the Baltimore area. Through his Methodist connections Allen was invited to return to Philadelphia in 1786. Upon arriving in the city he joined St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church, where he became active in teaching and preaching.

As the number of African Americans attending St. George’s increased, racial tensions mounted. Allen preached at 5:00 a.m. in special services on Sunday mornings to approximately 50 African American Methodists. When they attended the regular morning service, segregated seating was instituted. With this segregation Allen became convinced that a separate church was necessary for the black congregants. In 1787 Allen and a number of other African American Methodists walked out and formed a separate church that would become Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first Methodist church in the United States specifically for African Americans. Seven years later, on July 29, 1794, Bethel was dedicated by Bishop Francis Asbury. Richard Allen served Bethel Church as its pastor, and he was ordained a deacon by Asbury in 1799.

Other African American Methodist churches were formed in New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. On April 9, 1816, after two decades of conflict with white Methodism, Allen and other African American Methodist preachers hosted a meeting in Philadelphia to bring these churches together and to form a new denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). Allen was elected bishop, and with his consecration became the first African American bishop in the United States. By the time Allen died at his home on March 26, 1831, the AME church was well-established in the United States and supported missions in several countries overseas.

Allen cared passionately about education and opened a day school for African American children. He abhorred slavery, worked actively for abolition, and maintained his home as a stop on the Underground Railroad. He was committed to self-determination for African Americans in the United States, and eventually opposed all colonization plans for African Americans in other countries.


Do Unto Others

Sarah Allen's distinctive brand of charity made its debut during the AME church's first annual conference. The young church had struggled both financially and emotionally. The preachers had withstood excessive traveling and tireless work without any significant funding, and they returned for that first conference in terrible condition, with their clothes and belongings worn, and in poor physical condition from the difficulties of preaching on the road. Allen's biographical entry in Profiles of Negro Womanhood described how the clergy had returned "in a rather 'seedy' condition, whereupon the bishop refused to adjourn their subsequent meeting for the customary dinner at his home … After hearing her husband's explanation, [Allen] later saw for herself that the [preachers] had 'ventilators at their knees and ventilators in their elbows and ventilators in the seat of their trousers.'… [Allen] and the women of the church … [spent] an entire night in productive labor. By morning, the preachers all had new sets of clothes and were thus made presentable in appearance for carrying out their ministerial duties."

Allen's biographical entry in Notable Black American Women explained that Richard Allen initially referred to these women as the "ɽorcas Society,'" a title that "generally refers to a women's auxiliary group that is engaged in clothing and feeding the poor." The same entry also pointed out, however, that Allen's efforts in particular were ȭirected internally toward preparing good meals, repairing garments, and improving the appearance of AME pastors." This care and support went on before and during each annual conference until 1827, when Allen officially identified the group as the Daughters of Conference. Once formally organized, the group expanded, and began helping the needy outside the clergy. Allen christened this far-reaching group the Women's Missionary Society, which was described in Notable Black American Women as one which maintained Ȫ form of children's daycare school during the daytime hours, and helped organize adult classes at night to help educate their church members. They also cooked meals, mended garments, and gathered donated clothes for the needy." This focus on education for the community had served as a foundation for the Bethel church from the beginning, and remains a strong focus to the present day.

In a review in North Star of Jualynne Dodson's book Engendering Church: Women, Power, and the A.M.E. Church , Stephen W. Angell called attention to Dodson's assertion that there were three main ways women gained power in the nineteenth-century AME Church: evangelization by word of mouth, church organizations founded and attended by women, and the accumulation of resources. Angell's review also claimed that these methods for acquiring power were Ȯmployed with most effect when used quietly and unobtrusively," an apt description of the kind of life-changing work Sarah Allen did best.


Faculty

Dr. Adelman teaches courses on the business and economic history of the Atlantic world. His first book, Revolutionary Networks: The Business and Politics of Printing the News, 1763-1789, was awarded an Honorable Mention for the St. Louis Mercantile Library Prize from the Bibliographical Society of America. Dr. Adelman has published essays in Enterprise & Society, Early American Studies, the Washington Post, and TheAtlantic.com, and blogs at The Junto. He has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Doris G. Quinn Foundation, and a number of archives and institutions. In 2019, he was elected as a member of the American Antiquarian Society, one of the oldest learned societies in the United States.

Office: May Hall 307 Phone Number: (508) 626-4820 Email: [email protected]

Dr. Richard B. Allen is an internationally-known scholar and teacher who works on the social and economic history of Mauritius, slavery and indentured labor in the colonial plantation world, and slavery, slave trading, and abolition in the Indian Ocean and Asia. He is the recipient of two Fulbright research awards and prestigious research fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His publications include two monographs (Slaves, Freedmen and Indentured Laborers in Colonial Mauritius [Cambridge University Press, 1999], European Slave Trading in the Indian Ocean, 1500-1850 [Ohio University Press, 2014]), an edited collection (Slavery and Bonded Labor in Asia, 1250-1900 [Brill, forthcoming]), more than 55 articles, essays, and chapters in academic journals, books, encyclopedias, and research bibliographies published in Australia, Brazil, Britain, France, Germany, India, Mauritius, The Netherlands, Spain, and the United States, and more than 35 review essays and book reviews in prominent academic journals including African Studies Review, American Historical Review, Canadian Journal of African Studies, Comparative Studies in Society and History, The Historian, Journal of African History, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, and Slavery and Abolition. He currently serves on the editorial boards of French Colonial History and the Journal of Global Slavery. He is preparing a book-length manuscript on free(d) men and women of color in Mauritius and the colonial plantation world during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and has been commissioned by Bloomsbury Academic Publishing in London to write a book-length manuscript on Global Slaveries: A History since 1500. He has presented papers to conferences in Australia, Belgium, Britain, France, Ghana, Italy, Mauritius, The Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa, Suriname, Sweden, Trinidad, and Zanzibar as well as major universities in the United States. Recent honors include invitations to present keynote addresses to an international conference on women and humanitarianism at Örebro University in Sweden in October 2021 and the Svenska Historikermötet [Swedish Historians Conference] at Linnaeus University in May 2019, and to deliver the inaugural Joseph C. Miller Memorial Lecture at the University of Bonn’s Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies in October 2019. He co-authored the successful applications to designate the Aapravasi Ghat and the Le Morne Cultural Landscape in Mauritius as UNESCO World Heritage Sites (WHS), the successful application to inscribe the indentured immigration records of Mauritius on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register (MWR), and the application to inscribe the slavery records of Mauritius on the MWR, and continues to serve as research consultant to the Aapravasi Ghat WHS. Between 2009-11, he was special consultant to the Truth and Justice Commission of Mauritius which investigated the legacy of slavery and indentured labor in the country. He co-organized the international conference on “Slavery and Forced Labor in Asia, c. 1250-c. 1900: Continuities and Transformation in Comparative Perspective” at Leiden University in The Netherlands in June 2017. He is editor of Ohio University Press’s Indian Ocean Studies series, and evaluates major research grant proposals for the Social Science Research Council of Canada and the American Council of Learned Societies. In addition to offering courses in African, Indian, Middle Eastern, and world history, he has advised graduate students at Harvard University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Virginia, the University of Kent, the University of Sheffield, the University of Mauritius, the Université de Paris – Panthéon-Sorbonne, and the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam.


CBN: How Richard Allen Went From Slavery to Creating the AME Church and Standing Among the Founding Fathers of America

From his young years, Richard Allen knew the humiliating and dehumanizing pain of being a slave. Born in 1760, his entire family was sold from his first master to another. And when that second master fell on financial hard-times, he divided the family by selling Richard’s mother and three of his siblings to another plantation.

Then the teenager known as “Negro Richard” went on in toil and drudgery with just one of his brothers and sisters still with him. That’s when he met the Lord Jesus Christ when listening to the preaching of an abolitionist pastor. He and his brother decided their best Christian witness would be to serve their master all the more and with excellence.

Christianity & a Slew of Odd Jobs Lead to Freedom

Richard then got his slave master to listen to that preacher too, and his master also came to know the Lord. One of his Christian deeds was to offer Richard his freedom within five years if Richard could pay for that freedom. Throwing himself into odd jobs for cash, Richard managed to buy his way out of slavery in just one and a half years.

He educated himself and became an itinerant preacher in the mid-Atlantic states, changing his name from Negro Richard to Richard Allen. He thought soul-saving would now be the major mission of his life. But he also frequently advocated for an end to the enslavement of the colonies’ 700,000 black people, even as America was fighting for its liberty from Britain.

A Methodist Episcopal church in Philadelphia asked Allen to preach on a more regular basis. His sermons became so popular that black people began to flood the church to overflowing. The church built a new balcony area and then tried to force the African Americans to worship there, separated from their white Christian brothers and sisters. It literally picked some blacks up off their knees and dragged them away from praying with those whites.

Allen and many of his fellow congregants decided to walk out of that church. He decided they needed their own house of worship.

Former Slave, Now Landowner & Church Founder

Dr. Peter Lillback founded and heads up the Providence Forum, a group that wants to keep in Americans’ hearts how much God and faith figured into the founding of their nation and the forming of its values.

Lillback said of Allen, “This now former slave who’s been educated is going to establish a church that reaches out to the African Americans.”

The popular pastor had earlier purchased land in 1787 with the help of George Washington and Declaration of Independence signer Dr. Benjamin Rush.

Allen eventually bought a blacksmith’s shop, and in 1794 had it dragged by horses to this property, which has become the piece of land continually in the possession of African Americans longer than any other real estate in the US. He turned that blacksmith shop into a church, meant to be for blacks only so they wouldn’t have to deal with the degrading prejudice of whites and being pushed around by them in the holy space of a church.

But white Methodist leadership in Philadelphia fought back and demanded control over aspects of Allen’s church. He finally took them to court and what’s come to be known as Old Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church won its independence.

This became the nation’s first major African-American church. Then Allen convinced several other black congregations in the region – who also wanted to be free of racist overseers – to join with his church. In 1816, they became the African Methodist Episcopal Church, America’s first independent black denomination and oldest formal institution in the US for African-Americans.

Allen was named its first bishop. The AME now has 2,500,000 members in more than 7,000 congregations in 39 countries spread across five continents. And Allen’s Old Mother Bethel is still a lively church within that denomination.

‘If You Love the God of Love…’

Those weren’t Allen’s only firsts. He was the first black activist invited into a US president’s home. He was the first African American to write a copyrighted pamphlet the first black to write a eulogy for George Washington (and the only person at that time to write of Washington emancipating slaves).

“If you love the God of love,” he wrote in 1794, “clear your hands from slaves, burden not your children or country with them.”

Allen also helped put together the first convention of African American activists. Conventions became a major place for blacks to push for reforms, abolition and civil rights.

He and fellow reformer Absalom Jones formed the Free African Society to benefit blacks. And he made his own church a major place to educate African Americans and help them improve their place in the young nation. That church harbored more than 30 Jamaicans who’d escaped their slave masters. It became an early stop on the Underground Railroad and helped finance it.

He went on to influence major black reformers in the 1800s like Frederick Douglass and such civil rights activists in the 1900s as Martin Luther King Jr.


Richard Allen

"The love of this world is a heavy weight upon the soul which chains her down and prevents her flight towards heaven. Habitual acts of charity loose her from it by degrees, and help her in her struggle to disengage herself and mount upwards." The early years Richard Allen, born a slave in 1760 to a Quaker owner in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was sold early in his childhood to a farmer near Dover, Delaware. At the age of 17, Richard joined the Methodist Episcopal Church and began a course of self-education. He became licensed to preach in 1782 and conducted services with his master's permission. In 1786, Richard purchased freedom for himself and his family, then moved them back to Philadelphia. As he preached to African Americans at St. George Methodist Church, Richard became active in fighting racial discrimination within the church. As a solution, he elected to establish the independent Bethel Church in 1787. The congregation flourished so much that a new building was needed. In 1794, that building was dedicated by Bishop Francis Asbury, the first Methodist bishop in the new United States. By 1799, Allen had been ordained a deacon, and in 1816, became a bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church. A life of activism The existence of a number of separate black churches in the East offered the opportunity to found a new denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, also in 1816. Allen was chosen as its first bishop and served there until his death in 1831. Allen used his church connections to aid the Underground Railroad, as well as rail against the American Colonization Society, which wanted to send black Americans back to Africa. He did, however, assist a movement to relocate some black families to Canada. Allen was an outspoken critic of slavery and a forceful opponent of any derogation of his race. He was a firm believer in the bright future of black people in the western hemisphere. Allen stood among those black leaders who emerged from the shadow of the Revolution and the War of 1812, to speak and act for themselves — championing the rights and responsibilities of blacks in American society. A call to charity His call to charity, as referred to in his autobiography, was a philosophy requiring action to right social wrongs, especially pertaining to his "black brethren." Allen exhorted blacks to demonstrate their capacity for free responsibility, by cultivating the virtues of industry, frugality, and thrift — but acting generously to aid the less fortunate among his people. Allen's motivating conviction was that black people, though made unequal by the conditions under which they lived, were in no way inferior to other Americans.


Staff Profile

2020- Visiting Fellow. The Australia National University, Canberra. Humanities Research Centre.

2018-2019 Teaching Fellow in Early Modern History, Newcastle University.

2017- Postgraduate Director of Studies for 3 PhD students, School of Theology & Religion. University of Birmingham/Woodbrooke College, Birmingham.

2013� Reader (Assoc. Prof) in Early Modern Cultural History. University of South Wales.

2007� Reader (Assoc. Prof) in Early Modern Cultural History/Head of History (2007– 2011). University of Wales, Newport.

2006� Fulbright-Robertson Visiting Professor of British History, Westminster College, Missouri.

2004� Lecturer in History. Sunderland University.

2002� Lecturer in History. University of Newcastle.

2001� Senior Research Fellow. Northumbria University. Newcastle.

1999– 2000 Senior Lecturer in History. Trinity College, University of Wales.

1997� Head of Department (History). Davies, Laing and Dick College, London.

Memberships

Panel Member: AHRC Peer Review College, 2017–

Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, 2003–

Executive Committee Member of the Newspaper and Periodical History Forum of Ireland - http://newspapersperiodicals.org/

Member and former President: Friends’ Historical Society, 2015󈝼

Committee member for the Wales-Pennsylvania digitisation project, 2012–

Historical consultant for the Gunter Mansion (and Recusancy) in seventeenth century Wales.

Representative for Welsh Universities: Steering Committee, HistoryUK, 2009󈝻

I am a former Fulbright-Robertson Professor of British History at Westminster College, Missouri and currently a Visiting Fellow at the Humanities Research Centre, The Australian National University, Canberra -

I have research interests in the social, cultural and religious history of Britain, America and Australia from the mid-seventeenth century to the mid-nineteenth century, particularly d issenters and emigration to Pennsylvania and Ballarat, Victoria.

I have published widely on Quakerism, migration, and identity. My most recent works are:

Quaker Communities in Early Modern Wales: From Radicalism to Respectability (2007) the co-authored The Quakers, 1656�: The Evolution of an Alternative Community (2018) and several co-edited books: Irelands of the Mind (2008) Faith of Our Fathers: Popular Culture and Belief in Post-Reformation England, Ireland and Wales (2009) and The Religious History of Wales: A Survey of Religious Life and Practice from the Seventeenth Century to the Present Day (2013).


I am currently writing Welsh Quaker Emigrants and Colonial Pennsylvania and co-authoring, Quaker Networks and Moral Reform in the North East of England.

Postgraduate Supervision

I welcome proposals from postgraduates who are interested in any aspect of early modern social, cultural and religious history, especially the history of Dissent in Britain, Ireland and the transatlantic.

Successful Completions as Director of Studies:
  1. PhD Thesis, Magic and the Supernatural in Eighteenth Century Wales: the world of the Rev. Edmund Jones, 1702� (awarded 2012)
  2. PhD Thesis, The Heritage Industry in a Politically Devolved Wales (awarded 2014)
  3. PhD Thesis, Spatio-Temporality and Digital Tourism in UK Industrial UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site (awarded 2016)
  4. PhD Thesis, ‘Toeing the Scratch’: A historical analysis of the transition of Welsh Prize-Fighting, c.1750 – 1914 (awarded 2019)
Current Supervision as Director of Studies:
  1. PhD Thesis, ‘The distribution and ownership of chapbooks and other cheap print in south Wales and its borders, 1640 – 1730: developmental influences on commerce, religion and education’ (submitted May 2020)
  2. PhD Thesis, ‘Rural Quakerism’: The Religious Society of Friends in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, c.1650–c.1720 (p/t)

Postgraduate Taught 2018-19

MA in History

Module Leader: The Practice of History

Undergraduate Teaching, 2018-19

Level 6

Module Leader: British and Irish Migrants: Transatlantic Connections


Separate but Equal for Richard Allen

To one accomplishes anything worthwhile without overcoming difficulties. In becoming America's first black bishop, Richard Allen faced formidable obstacles. He was born a slave. This meant he had to fight racism and inequity every step of his way. He did not automatically receive an education. Whatever he undertook required his master's permission. Slavery's cruelties touched his life. To pay debts, Richard's master sold off Richard's mother and three of her children. Richard never heard from them again.

At age seventeen, Allen met Christ. "I was awakened and brought to see myself, poor, wretched and undone, and without the mercy of God must be lost. Shortly after, I obtained mercy through the blood of Christ. . .I was brought under doubts, and was tempted to believe I was deceived, and was constrained to seek the Lord afresh. . .I was tempted to believe there was no mercy for me. I cried to the Lord day and night. . .all of a sudden my dungeon shook, and glory to God, I cried. My soul was filled. I cried, enough for me--the Savior died." He saw himself as a human being loved by God and it transformed his outlook. He became a member of the Methodist Episcopal church. To prove the merits of Christianity to his master he worked doubly hard. His master came under conviction. Indebtedness did not allow him to free Allen outright however he offered to let him buy his freedom. Working evening and weekend jobs, Allen saved up his liberation money. An inward urge propelled him to educate himself. By 1782 he had become licensed to preach. Four years later he bought his freedom.

From Delaware, where he had been a slave, he moved to Philadelphia. There he preached to blacks in an established Methodist church. But when the church engaged in outrageous discrimination, he determined to form an independent Methodist body. The result was the Bethel Church, founded in 1787 in Philadelphia. Francis Asbury dedicated its structure a few years later and ordained Richard a deacon. Later Allen became America's first black Methodist bishop. Black churches across the Eastern United States organized on this day, April 9, 1816 into a new denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church and elected Richard Allen Bishop of that organization.

Humble before Christ, Allen was charitable even to the whites who oppressed him. He was a driving force in founding America's first black convention and was active in the underground railroad. His story is one of great adversities boldly overcome in the strength of Christ.


Richard Allen: Apostle of Freedom

February, 2010, marks the 250th birthday of Bishop Richard Allen, a revered figure in African American history and one of the nation’s leading abolitionists. Allen's life story is nothing short of extraordinary. Enslaved at birth, he eventually bought his freedom and became one of the most important African American leaders of his day.

In honor of his birthday, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania has partnered with its neighbor the Library Company of Philadelphia to bring you the online display, Richard Allen: Apostle of Freedom. Learn about Richard Allen and his incredible story through a display of documents and images from both societies' collections.

Research materials used for this exhibition were compiled from the following sources:

Nash, Gary B. Forging Freeedom: The Formation of Philadelphia's Black Community, 1720-1840. Cambridge, Harvard University Press. 1988.

Newman, Richard S. Freedom's Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers. 2008.

Switala, William J. Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania. Mechanicsburg, Stackpole Books. 2001.

Original source material from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Any item in the exhibition that includes mainly text, whether it is handwritten or typeset, can be enlarged. Simply click on the image and a larger format, better quality PDF of the image will open.

To purchase a digital reproduction of an image seen in the exhibition that is part of the collections of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, contact Rights & Reproductions at [email protected]

To purchase a digital reproduction of any image seen in the exhibition that is part of the collections of the Library Company of Philadelphia, click here.


Watch the video: Richard Norton - 2013 Music Video (January 2022).