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Richard Allen

Born: February 14, 1760
Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died: March 26, 1831
Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Richard Allen Richard Allen was born on February 14, 1760 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was born into slavery; his family was the property of a wealthy Philadelphia lawyer, Benjamin Chew. As a child, Richard Allen and his family were sold to Stockley Sturgis, a plantation owner in Delaware. Apparently, Sturgis was somewhat of a benevolent master, and allowed Allen to learn to read and write. Through his reading, Allen became interested in religion, and again with the permission of Sturgis, he attended local Methodist meetings until other townspeople objected. Sturgis then allowed Methodist meetings on his own plantation and Allen soon found that preaching was his calling, and is said to have influenced Sturgis' own conversion to the Methodist religion. In 1783, Richard Allen purchased his freedom, and moved back to Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, Richard Allen began preaching the Gospel when he could gather groups of black men and women, and he regularly worshipped in the Methodist church. However, he and other black worshippers faced opposition from some of the established white members of the church. Instead of forcing the issue, Allen left the Methodist congregation and in 1787 he began founding his own congregation where people could worship without restriction and harassment. Allen and his followers created the Free African Society to serve their religious needs. As the free black population of Philadelphia grew, Richard Allen continued to devote his efforts to bringing increasing numbers of black people into the Methodist religion. In 1816 Allen established the African Methodist Episcopal Church. On April 11 of that year Allen was named the church's first bishop.

Richard Allen continued preaching throughout his life. He was widely recognized as the unofficial leader of free black people in Philadelphia and beyond, bringing them into the folds of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and actively working to improve their conditions and place in society. A man of rock-solid faith and stamina, Richard Allen died in 1831.


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