Allen, Richard

Allen, Richard
born Feb. 14, 1760, Philadelphia, Pa.
died March 26, 1831, Philadelphia

U.S. religious leader.

He was born to slave parents, and his family was sold to a Delaware farmer. A Methodist convert at 17, he was licensed to preach five years later. By 1786 he had purchased his freedom and settled in Philadelphia, where he joined St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church. Racial discrimination prompted him to withdraw in 1787, and he turned an old blacksmith shop into the first black church in the U.S. Allen and his followers built the Bethel African Methodist Church, and in 1799 he was ordained as its minister. In 1816 he organized a conference of black leaders to form the African Methodist Episcopal Church, of which he was named the first bishop.

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▪ American clergyman
born February 14, 1760, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania [U.S.]
died March 26, 1831, Philadelphia

      founder and first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a major American denomination.

      Soon after Allen was born, to slave parents, the family was sold to a Delaware farmer. At age 17 he became a Methodist (Methodism) convert and at 22 was permitted to preach. Two years later (1784), at the first general conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Baltimore, Allen was considered a talented candidate for the new denomination's ministry. In 1786 he bought his freedom and went to Philadelphia, where he joined St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church. Occasionally he was asked to preach to the congregation. He also conducted prayer meetings for blacks. Restrictions were placed on the number permitted to attend these meetings, and Allen, dissatisfied, withdrew in 1787 to help organize an independent Methodist church. In 1787 he turned an old blacksmith shop into the first church for blacks in the United States. His followers were known as Allenites.

      In 1799 Allen became the first African American to be officially ordained in the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The organization of the Bethel Society led in 1816 to the founding of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which elected Allen its first bishop.

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Universalium. 2010.

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