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Main > Politics & Religion > Richard Allen

Methodist minister and church founder, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Born a slave, he was sold as a child to a farmer in Delaware. He converted to Methodism as a young man and then converted his owner, who gave him his freedom. While working at odd jobs, he educated himself and travelled throughout the mid-Atlantic states preaching; by 1874 he was accepted as a Methodist preacher and returned to Philadelphia to preach (1786-7).

After an incident in which white parishioners forced the African-Americans present to segregate themselves, he led his black parishioners to form a Free African Society (1787), and in 1794 established a separate Methodist church for African-Americans. In 1816 a number of independent black Methodist churches around the NE came together to form the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and he was ordained its first bishop (11 Apr 1816), leading it until his death. It expanded, not only as a religious force but also in civil and social activism, and is considered one of the most enduring institutions ever organized by African-Americans. A strong patriot, he supported the War of 1812, and denounced the notion of sending African-Americans to colonize in Africa.

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