Allen, Richard

Allen, Richard (1760-1831): African-American leader of the Free African Society and A. M.E. Church: Born of slave parents, Allen grew up in slavery in Delaware. He became a dynamic Methodist minister, one of whose converts was his master, who allowed him to buy his freedom. Allen moved to Philadelphia, where he brought so many African-Americans into the Methodist Church that racial tensions formed. By 1787, he decided to begin a separate church for black people. His Free African Society, dedicated to the self-improvement and advancement of African-Americans, was one of the first official African-American organizations in the United States. At St. George's Methodist Church, where Allen attended services in Philadelphia, black church members were segregated and forces to sit in the gallery. As a result of this indignity, Allen and some member of the Free African Society founded the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church (Mother Bethel), and Absalom Jones, with other member of the Society, formed the St. Thomas Free African Church within the Episcopal Church. Allen was ordained a bishop in 1799 and, after winning an 1816 court case, gained complete independence and the legal establishment of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

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