Allen was one of the greatest Black religious leaders in American history.
His leadership and organizational skills were phenomenal. Richard Allen,
February 14, 1760 to March 26, 1831, was a minister, educator, and writer, and
the founder in 1816 of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, AME, the
first independent black denomination in the United States. He opened his first
AME church in 1794 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was elected the First
Bishop of the AME Church in 1816. The AME church is the oldest
denomination among independent African-American churches.
Born into slavery, Allen as a young man worked to buy his freedom
from his master in
Delaware. He went to Philadelphia in 1786, licensed as a Methodist
preacher. He belonged for a time to St. George's Methodist Church, but he
and his supporters resented its segregation and decided to leave the church.
In 1787 he and Absalom Jones founded the Free African Society (FAS), a
non-denominational, mutual aid society for blacks in Philadelphia, which
particularly helped widows and children. Eventually they each founded
independent black congregations in 1794.