|Church||African Methodist Episcopal Church|
|Installed||April 10, 1816|
|Term ended||March 26, 1831|
by Francis Asbury
|Born||February 14, 1760|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
|Died||March 26, 1831 71) (aged|
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
|Buried||Mother Bethel AME Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States|
|Denomination||African Methodist Episcopal Church|
|Spouse||Flora, Sarah Bass|
|Children||Richard Jr., James, John, Peter, Sara, and Ann|
|Occupation||Founder of the African Methodist Episcopal church, minister, abolitionist, educator, writer, and one of America's most active and influential black leaders|
|Feast day||March 26|
|Beatified||by Episcopal Church|
Richard Allen (February 14, 1760 – March 26, 1831)was a minister, educator, writer, and one of America's most active and influential black leaders. In 1794, he founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the first independent black denomination in the United States. He opened his first AME church in 1794 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Elected the first bishop of the AME Church in 1816, Allen focused on organizing a denomination in which free blacks could worship without racial oppression and slaves could find a measure of dignity. He worked to upgrade the social status of the black community, organizing Sabbath schools to teach literacy and promoting national organizations to develop political strategies.
He was born into slavery on February 14, 1760, on the Delaware property of Benjamin Chew. When he was a child Allen and his family were sold to Stokeley Sturgis, who had a plantation in Delaware. When Sturgis had financial problems he sold Richard's mother and two of his five siblings. Allen had an older brother and sister left with him and the three began to attend meetings of the local Methodist Society, which was welcoming to slaves and free blacks. They were encouraged by their master Sturgis although he was unconverted. Richard taught himself to read and write. He joined the Methodists at 17. He began evangelizing and attracted criticism from local slave owners.
Allen and his brother redoubled their efforts for Sturgis so that no one could say his slaves did not do well because of religion.
The Reverend Freeborn Garrettson, who had freed his own slaves in 1775, began to preach in Delaware. He was among many Methodist and Baptist ministers after the American Revolutionary War who encouraged slaveholders to emancipate their people. When Garrettson visited the Sturgis plantation to preach, Allen's master was touched by this declaration and began to give consideration to the thought that holding slaves was sinful.Sturgis was soon convinced that slavery was wrong and offered his slaves an opportunity to buy their freedom. Allen performed extra work to earn the money and bought his freedom in 1780 when he changed his name from "Negro Richard" to "Richard Allen."
Allen's first wife was named Flora. They were married on October 19, 1790. She worked very closely with him during the early years of establishing the church, from 1787 to 1799. They attended church school and worked together purchasing land, which was eventually donated to the church or rented out to families. Flora died on March 11, 1801, after a long illness. Scholars do not know if they had any children.After moving to Philadelphia, Allen married Sarah Bass, a freed slave from Virginia. She had moved to Philadelphia as a child and the couple met around 1800. Richard and Sarah Allen had six children. Sarah Allen was highly active in what became the AME Church and is called the "Founding Mother."
Allen was qualified as a preacher in 1784 at the Christmas Conference, the founding of the Methodist Church in North America in Baltimore, Maryland. He was one of the two black attendees of the conference along with Harry Hosier, but neither could vote during deliberations. Allen was then allowed to lead services at 5 a.m., which were attended mostly by blacks. Eschewing Asbury and Hosier's circuit riding practices, he moved to Philadelphia, a center of free blacks.
In 1786, Allen became a preacher at St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but was restricted to early-morning services. As he attracted more black congregants, the church vestry ordered them to be in a separate area for worship. Allen regularly preached on the commons near the church, slowly gaining a congregation of nearly 50 and supporting himself with a variety of odd jobs.
Allen and Absalom Jones, also a Methodist preacher, resented the white congregants' segregation of blacks for worship and prayer. They decided to leave St. George's to create independent worship for African Americans. That brought some opposition from the white church as well as the more-established blacks of the community.
In 1787, Allen and Jones led the black members out of St. George's Methodist Church. They formed the Free African Society (FAS), a non-denominational mutual aid society that assisted fugitive slaves and new migrants to the city. Allen, along with Absalom Jones, William Gray and William Wilcher, found an available lot on Sixth Street near Lombard. Allen negotiated a price and purchased this lot in 1787 to build a church, but it was years before they had a building. Now occupied by Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, it is the oldest parcel of real estate in the United States that has been owned continuously by African Americans.
Over time, most of the FAS members chose to affiliate with the Episcopal Church, as many blacks in Philadelphia had been Anglicans since the 1740s.They founded the African Church with Absalom Jones. It was accepted as a parish congregation, and opened its doors on July 17, 1794 as the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. In 1795, Absalom Jones was ordained as a deacon. In 1804, he became the first black ordained in the United States as an Episcopal priest.
Allen and others wanted to continue in the Methodist practice. Allen called their congregation the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). Converting a blacksmith shop on Sixth Street, the leaders opened the doors of Bethel AME Church on July 29, 1794. At first affiliated with the larger Methodist Episcopal Church, the church had to rely on visiting white ministers for communion. In recognition of his leadership and preaching, Allen was ordained as the first black Methodist minister by Bishop Francis Asbury in 1799. He and the congregation still had to continue to negotiate white oversight and deal with white elders of the denomination. A decade after its founding, the AME Church had 457 members, and in 1813, it had 1,272.
In 1816, Allen united five African-American congregations of the Methodist Church in Philadelphia; Attleborough, Pennsylvania; Salem, New Jersey; Delaware and Maryland. Together, they founded the independent denomination of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the first fully independent black denomination in the United States. On April 10, 1816, the other ministers elected Allen as their first bishop. The African Methodist Episcopal Church is the oldest and largest formal institution in black America.
From 1797 until his death, in 1831, Allen and Sarah operated a station on the Underground Railroad for fugitive slaves.
The social themes of Bishop Allen's preaching were abolition, colonization, education, and temperance.The preaching style was almost never expository or written to be read, but the subject delivered in an evangelical and extemporized manner that demanded action, rather than meditation. The tone was persuasive, not didactic.
In September 1830, black representatives from seven states convened in Philadelphia at the Bethel AME church for the first Negro Convention. A civic meeting, it was the first on such a scale organized by African-American leaders. Allen presided over the meeting, which addressed both regional and national topics. The convention occurred after the 1826 and 1829 riots in Cincinnati, when whites had attacked blacks and destroyed their businesses. After the 1829 rioting, 1200 blacks had left the city to go to Canada.As a result, the Negro Convention addressed organizing aid to such settlements in Canada, among other issues. The 1830 meeting was the beginning of an organizational effort known as the Negro Convention Movement, part of 19th-century institution building in the black community. Conventions were held regularly nationally.
Allen died at home on Spruce Street on March 26, 1831.He was buried at the church that he founded. His grave remains on the lower level.
Peter Spencer (1782–1843) was an American freedman who in 1813 founded the Union Church of Africans in Wilmington, Delaware. The denomination is now known as the African Union First Colored Methodist Protestant Church and Connection, or A.U.M.P. Church for short. Born into slavery in 1782 in Kent County, Maryland, Spencer was freed after his master died, by the terms of his will.
The Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) was the oldest and largest Methodist denomination in the United States from its founding in 1784 until 1939. It was also the first religious denomination in the US to organize itself on a national basis. In 1939, the MEC reunited with two breakaway Methodist denominations to form the Methodist Church. In 1968, the Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church to form the United Methodist Church.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church, usually called the A.M.E. Church or AME, is a predominantly African-American Methodist denomination. It is the first independent Protestant denomination to be founded by black people. It was founded by the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1816 from several black Methodist congregations in the mid-Atlantic area that wanted independence from white Methodists. It was among the first denominations in the United States to be founded on racial rather than theological distinctions and has persistently advocated for the civil and human rights of African Americans through social improvement, religious autonomy, and political engagement. Allen, a deacon in Methodist Episcopal Church, was consecrated its first bishop in 1816 by a conference of five churches from Philadelphia to Baltimore. The denomination then expanded west and south, particularly after the Civil War. By 1906, the AME had a membership of about 500,000, more than the combined total of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, making it the largest major African-American Methodist denomination. The AME currently has 20 districts, each with its own bishop: 13 are based in the United States, mostly in the South, while seven are based in Africa. The global membership of the AME is around 2.5 million and it remains one of the largest Methodist denominations in the world.
Absalom Jones was an African-American abolitionist and clergyman who became prominent in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Disappointed at the racial discrimination he experienced in a local Methodist church, he founded the Free African Society with Richard Allen in 1787, a mutual aid society for African Americans in the city. The Free African Society included many people newly freed from slavery after the American Revolutionary War.
The Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church is a historic church and congregation at 419 South 6th Street in Center City Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. The congregation, founded in 1794, is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal congregation in the nation. Its present church, completed in 1890, is the oldest church property in the United States to be continuously owned by African Americans. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1972.
The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, or the AME Zion Church or AMEZ, is a historically African-American Christian denomination based in the United States. It was officially formed in 1821 in New York City, but operated for a number of years before then.
The term Black church refers to Protestant churches that currently or historically have ministered to predominantly African American congregations in the United States. While some Black churches belong to predominantly African-American denominations, such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), many Black churches are members of predominantly white denominations, such as the United Church of Christ.
The Free African Society, founded in 1787, was a benevolent organization that held religious services and provided mutual aid for "free Africans and their descendants" in Philadelphia. The Society was founded by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones. It was the first Black religious institution in the city and led to the establishment of the first independent Black churches in the United States.
Daniel Alexander Payne was an American bishop, educator, college administrator and author. A major shaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.), Payne stressed education and preparation of ministers and introduced more order in the church, becoming its sixth bishop and serving for more than four decades (1852–1893) as well as becoming one of the founders of Wilberforce University in Ohio in 1856. In 1863 the AME Church bought the college and chose Payne to lead it; he became the first African-American president of a college in the United States and served in that position until 1877.
The Allen Temple AME Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, is the mother church of the Third Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Founded in 1824, it is the oldest operating black church in Cincinnati and the largest church of the Third Episcopal District of the AME Church.
Religion of Black Americans refers to the religious and spiritual practices of African Americans. Historians generally agree that the religious life of Black Americans "forms the foundation of their community life." Before 1775 there was scattered evidence of organized religion among blacks in the Thirteen colonies. The Methodist and Baptist churches became much more active in the 1780s. Their growth was quite rapid for the next 150 years, until they covered a majority of the people.
James Varick was the first Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.
St. George's United Methodist Church, located at the corner of 4th and New Streets, in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia, is the oldest Methodist church in continuous use in the United States, beginning in 1769. The congregation was founded in 1767, meeting initially in a sail loft on Dock Street, and in 1769 it purchased the shell of a building which had been erected in 1763 by a German Reformed congregation. At this time, Methodists had not yet broken away from the Anglican Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church was not founded until 1784.
Daniel Coker (1780–1846), born Isaac Wright, was an African American of mixed race from Baltimore, Maryland who gained freedom from slavery and became a Methodist minister. He wrote one of the few pamphlets published in the South protesting slavery and supporting abolition. In 1816 he helped found the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first independent black denomination in the United States, at its first national convention in Philadelphia.
The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas (AECST) was founded in 1792 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the first black Episcopal Church in the United States. Its congregation developed from the Free African Society, a non-denominational group formed by blacks who had left St. George's Methodist Church because of discrimination and segregation by class. They were led by Absalom Jones, a free black and lay Methodist preacher. As his congregation became established, he was ordained in 1802 by Presiding Bishop William White as the first black priest in the Episcopal Church. Bishop White also ordained William Levington as a deacon at this church, although he soon became a missionary in the South, establishing St. James Church in Baltimore in 1824.
The British Methodist Episcopal Church (BMEC) is a Protestant church in Canada that has its roots in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC) of the United States.
Henry McNeal Turner was a minister, politician, and the 12th elected and consecrated bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). An African American, he was a pioneer in Georgia at organizing new congregations of African Americans after the American Civil War. Born free in South Carolina, Turner learned to read and write and became a Methodist preacher. He joined the AME Church in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1858, where he became a minister. Later he had pastorates in Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, DC.
Harry Hosier, better known during his life as "Black Harry", was an African American Methodist preacher during the Second Great Awakening in the early United States. Dr. Benjamin Rush said that, "making allowances for his illiteracy, he was the greatest orator in America". His style was widely influential but he was never formally ordained by the Methodist Episcopal Church or the Rev. Richard Allen's separate African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.
The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, often referred to as Mother Emanuel, is a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Founded in 1817, Emanuel AME is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the Southern United States. This first independent black denomination in the United States was founded in 1816 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Morris Brown was one of the founders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and its second presiding bishop. He founded Emanuel AME Church in his native Charleston, South Carolina. It was implicated in the slave uprising planned by Denmark Vesey, also of this church, and after that was suppressed, Brown was imprisoned for nearly a year. He was never convicted of any crime.
Bishop Richard Allen died at his home, on 150 Spruce Street, on March 26, 1831.
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