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 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. 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. He converted a former blacksmith shop into 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 at the age of 71, 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.
TO THE MEMORY OF THE Rt Rev RICHARD ALLEN
first Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Connexion in the United States of AMERICA. and founder of this church, Who was born in this city, AD 1760. At the age of 17, experienced religion and joined the Methodist Society in the State of Delaware. at the age of 22, commenced his ministerial labours, which were extended through various parts of the Middle States. In 1786 he returned to his native city where his unexampled labours will redound to posterity. He was instrumental in the hands of the Lord in enlightening many thousands of his brethren the descendants of Africa, and was the founder of the first African Church in AMERICA, which was erected in Philadelphia, AD 1793. He was ordained deacon AD 1799 by the Reverend Francis Asbury, Bishop of the Methodist church. At the organization of the African Methodist church, AD 1816, he was elected and ordained a Bishop for the said church by their first General Conference and was the first African Bishop in AMERICA, which office he filled for upwards of fourteen years with uncommon zeal fidelity perseverance and sound judgment. He was an affectionate husband and a tender father and a sincere christian. He finished his course in this city after a tedious illness which he bore with christian fortitude on the 26th day of March 1831, in the 72nd year of his age gloriously triumphing over death and in the hopes of a better resurrection through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I have fought the good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith
VOX POPULI, VOX DEI
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