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Richard Allen in Philadelphia

Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2019

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Early Life

Richard Allen (1760-1831) was a teenage slave living in Delaware when he was inspired to become a preacher. Allen was able to convince his master that slavery was immoral, and he was given an opportunity to buy his way out of slavery.

Richard Allen, Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church

Allen in Philadelphia

Allen arrived in Philadelphia in 1786 and first began preaching at Old Saint George’s Methodist Church. However, as his congregation of African American worshipers grew, so did racial tension within the Church, and Allen and his fellow black congregants were subsequently segregated and often forced to worship in the courtyard or very early in the morning. This led to Allen’s decision to leave Old Saint George’s and to create his own church.

Mother Bethel

Allen would found Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1794 on a plot of land at 6th and Lombard Streets, just blocks away from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. This land remains today, and it is symbolic because it is the longest continually African American owned piece of property in the United States. Mother Bethel is America’s first A.M.E. Church, and Allen was named the first Bishop of this denomination. Allen’s Church became a beacon for the growing free African American Community in Philadelphia, serving at the forefront of the abolitionist movement and Civil Rights movements.

Mother Bethel Church

Free African Society

Richard Allen also founded the Free African Society, along with fellow preacher Absalom Jones in 1787, the same year as the writing of the United States Constitution at Independence Hall. The society was among the first of its kind in the United States, designed as means for free black citizens to help one another and create a strong community. The Free African Society was also affiliated with Quakers and meetings often took place in Quaker Meeting Houses.

Additional Information

Mother Bethel Church
419 South 6th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

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