Who is Richard Allen in African American history?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Richard Allen is an important figure in the religious history of the African American community.  It was Allen who founded the African Methodist Episcopalian (AME) church, which became one of the most important denominations of the black church.  Allen was also involved in activities such as the Underground Railroad, but he is most important for founding the AME.

Richard Allen was born into slavery in Philadelphia in 1760.  He was later sold to an owner in Delaware.  That slaveowner experienced a religious conversion, however, and decided that slavery was wrong.  He encouraged Richard (not then called “Allen”) to buy his freedom.  Richard did, and then took “Allen” as a last name that would not be connected with his former owners.

Allen then became a travelling minister.  In his travels, he came to believe that there was a need for a church that would be run by black people for black people.  Because of this belief, he established the Bethel church in Philadelphia.  This church became the founding church of the AME.

Thus, Richard Allen is most famous for having been the founder of the AME church.