We’re celebrating black heroes who made history, and I want to introduce you to Richard Allen. Allen, who was born into slavery, had no last name—he was simply known as “Negro Richard.” At age 17, he was converted and began preaching at the local Methodist churches in Delaware and on his plantation. In 1783, he was allowed to purchase his freedom, and he gave himself the last name Allen.
As a free man, Allen settled in Philadelphia and attended St. George’s Methodist Church. His preaching and leadership attracted many blacks to the church and caused racial tension. You see, though blacks and whites worshipped together, there was still no equality. Worship was segregated, and blacks were treated poorly. Due to this, Allen left St. George’s in 1787 and organized an independent Methodist church. However, Methodist leaders in Philadelphia continued to harass him. Finally, in 1816, Allen formally separated from the Methodist church and established a new denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). He focused on organizing a denomination in which free black people could worship without racial oppression and enslaved people could find a measure of dignity.
Today, AME has over 6,000 churches and over 2 million members.