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Bishop Richard Allen: (1760-1831) Founder and first Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church

Richard Allen was born a slave on February 14, 1760 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He was a religious leader, founder and first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.

In 1768 Allen was sold along with his family to a plantation owner in Delaware. He began to attend Methodist meetings and in 1777 he was converted to Methodism.  To pay for his freedom Allen began to preach at Methodist churches in Delaware and neighboring states, and became a free man in 1786.

In 1787, Allen and others were denied the right to worship God in St. George Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia (now the United Methodist Church).  He politely walked out, and created the Free African Society.

Allen opened the Bethel African Church on April 9, 1794, and was ordained its deacon. And in 1807 a Pennsylvania Supreme court ruling upheld the right for the black Methodist congregation to determine who would preach at the Church.

In 1816 the churches were united under the name of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and attendants elected Allen bishop of the new denomination, a position he held until his death on March 26, 1831 in Philadelphia.


Further Reading:

Africans in America- PBS Programming from 1998