During the 1700s and 1800s, Philadelphia was home to a large community of free #Black Americans. Many of these people were descendants of enslaved Africans and looking to create a better life for themselves. Many members of the black community began to form businesses, churches, schools, and other organizations. One church in particular became an important part of the community and influenced African-American life throughout the United States, #Mother Bethel A.M.E Church.
The founder of the church was #Richard Allen, a former slave. Allen had been born into #slavery in 1760, and sold along with his family to Stokeley Sturgis, a farmer in Delaware. By the age of 17, Allen was a religious believer, and convinced his owner to allow a white minister to preach on the farm. After hearing the sermon which was abolition influenced Allen’s slave owner converted to the religion and allowed Allen to buy his freedom for $2,000.
Allen worked to support himself taking odd and end jobs throughout the state, and would preach on the Methodist circuit. He was invited to preach to Black members at St. George’s Methodist Church in Philadelphia. Services had to be rendered at 5 am to keep from interfering with the worship of the white members. However, the racial tension in the church began to grow, because of this Allen and other Black members decided to leave the church. Along with Absalom Jones, Allen formed the Free African Society. The organization would provide help to the members of the #African American community. The Black community along with the leadership of Jones formed the “African Church.” Allen, also purchased land at 6th and Lombard Streets because he wished to keep the connection with the Methodist church. On July 29, 1794, Bethel Church was born. In 1816, Bethel along with other Methodist congregations founded the “African Methodist Episcopal Church in America”. The church became “Mother Bethel” and Allen was appointed the first bishop of the church. Helped by his wife, Sarah, Allen helped to hide escaped slaves. The church served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Allen remained an active leader of the church working for the rights of enslaved Blacks. He died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 26, 1831.