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Richard Allen
Birth: Feb. 14, 1760
Philadelphia County
Pennsylvania, USA
Death: Mar. 26, 1831
Philadelphia County
Pennsylvania, USA

African American Religious Leader. He was the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in 1816, which was the first independent black religious denomination in the US. He opened his first AME church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1794 and was elected its first bishop in 1816. He was born into slavery to Benjamin Chew, a wealthy Philadelphia merchant, and was sold as a child along with his family to a farmer in Delaware. His parents and three siblings were later sold by his master to pay financial debts. He and his remaining sibling began attending meetings of the local Methodist Society, at the encouragement of their master. He taught himself to read and write, and at the age of 17 he became a Methodist. His master soon was convinced that slavery was morally wrong and offered him and other slaves to earn money to buy their freedom, which he did in 1780 and changed his name to Richard Allen. In 1784 he was qualified to preach at the first conference of the Methodist Church held in Baltimore, Maryland and he moved back to Philadelphia, which was a center for free blacks, where he met and married his wife Sarah. In 1786 he became a preacher at Saint George's Methodist Episcopal Church but since it was a white church, he was restricted to early morning services. Soon afterward, the church's vestry ordered them to find a separate area for their worship and in 1787 he relocated the back members of the church to a vacant lot where he would eventually built a church. During this time he and fellow Methodist preacher Absalom Jones formed the Free African Society (FAS) that assisted fugitive slaves and new free black migrants to Philadelphia. Because a majority of the FAS members were aligned with the Episcopal Church, Jones split off in 1794 and formed the African Episcopal Church while Allen and others chose to continue in the Methodist faith. He converted a former blacksmith shop to a church and named it the AME Church and in 1799 he was ordained as the first black Methodist minister in recognition of his leadership and preaching. In 1816 he united four African American congregations in Philadelphia and founded the independent denomination of the AME Church, and in April of that year he was elected as their first bishop. From 1797 until his death in 1831, he and his wife operated a station on the Underground Railroad for fugitive slaves from the Southern states. The church was also instrumental in giving aid to migrating blacks from the South after the Civil War. The location of his church is now occupied by the Mother Bethel AME Church and is the oldest parcel of real estate in the US owned continuously by African Americans. (bio by: William Bjornstad) 
Family links: 
  Sarah Bass Allen (1764 - 1849)*
*Calculated relationship
Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church
Philadelphia County
Pennsylvania, USA
Plot: Tomb Located on the Church's Lower Level.
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Jan 01, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 23
Richard Allen
Added by: Warrick L. Barrett
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