Bio of Richard Allen
Bishop Richard Allen was born on the Feb 14, the year 1760 in Philadelphia and lived on till the 26th of March the year1831 when he died.He was a son to slave parents and his family was sold to Delaware farmer. Richard Allen was converted to Methodist faith at an early age and at the age of 22 years old he had already been licensed to preach the gospel all over the US. He worked hard and managed to purchase his freedom from slavery when he reached 26 years old. This enabled him to settle in Philadelphia where he joined St. Georges Methodist Episcopal Church. He later quit the church in the year 1787 due to open racial discrimination.
The discrimination triggered his urge to form a church for the blacks which he later succeeded to do when he started using an old blacksmith shop as a church.This was the first Black church in the U.S. He later organized himself together with his followers and constructed the Bethel African Methodist church to which he was ordained its minister in the year 1799. The African Methodist Episcopal Church was formed through his initiative when he organized for a black leaders’ conference in 1816. It was during the same meeting that he was made the Bishop of the Church. Allen was married to a former slave from Virginia called Sarah with whom he had six children. His wife supported him in taking care of the runaway slaves and in organizing the women to assist the church in other social welfare issues.
Allen’s Early Life in Ministry
It may be said the Richard Allen’s slavery life contributed to his conversion and therefore the kind of life that he lived. He spent his early life as a slave to a Quaker lawyer in Philadelphia who sold him to another farmer. It was during his service to this farmer that Allen developed a unique passion for religion. He was then converted and later joined a Methodist Society. This early developments into religious matters in Allen’s life was made possible by his new master who was also a convert. Their master saw a sense of allowing Richard to have his freedom which enabled Richard to educate himself.
As a free African American, Allen travelled to many places preaching both to the Americans and the Blacks. He used to cut woods, labor in the brickyard and sometimes drive a wagon to generate income for his ministry. People were a bit loyal to him and his ministry because of the good image of the early Methodist Church which was appealing to both the Africans and the Americans. In 1784 he was amongst the two Afro-Americans selected to attend the organizing conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. For a long time, Allen, preached together with the white Methodist ministers. Allen also received occasional invitations to preach at St. Georges Church in Philadelphia. This trend saw him gain favor with many African American members of the church and increased his passion into establishing an African place of worship.
Challenges facing His Ministry
Just like any other new ministry, Richard Allen was opposed from all quarters during his first days in the ministry. However, his ministry received a boost later on following the realization by the Africans that the ministry would be a source of freedom to the religious discrimination. Many Africans therefore agreed to join Allen’s ministry in the year 1787. The church continued to receive several challenges with the worst set back occurring in South Carolina.Here, his church was burnt to the ground and the church minister forced to run for his life and take a refuge at Philadelphia. The church had been accused of hosting slaves who were planning a revolt. The AME church therefore never expanded much in the South.
Allen later faced a division among his followers which led to the formation of the African Protestants Episcopal Church and the Independent Methodist Church under his leadership. The problems continued even after they had completed the building of their Bethel Church in 1794 and he had been ordained the first African American deacon in 1799. There were frictions between his congregation and the leadership of the original church up to 1816.This was because his ministry still depended upon the original church for ministers as Africans had not been trained into the ministry. The challenges made the African worshipers to hold a meeting at Philadelphia leading into the formation of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Richard Allen was finally chosen to be its first Bishop the same year.
A brief about the church
The Africa Methodist Episcopal Church is today independent from the United Methodist Church. The church developed from the initiatives of a group slaves from the Philadelphia and those who had served as slaves like Allen. They had withdrawn their membership from the original church by 1787 because of discrimination in their initial places of worship.They united and built the Bethel African Methodist Church in 1799. Allen became both the Church’s first minister and its first Bishop. Today the church has over one million members.
Allen’s contributions to black’s Freedom
The contributions by Allen to the blacks’ freedom are two-fold. It began a year after he was ordained the AEM church bishop. It began by his denial of the plan by the America Colonization Society (ACS) to return the free African-Americans back to Africa. By the year 1830 had formed the first National movement to resettle the free African Americans in Canada. The ACS advocated for either the voluntary emigration or forced expulsion of all free blacks from the United States to Africa. Allen responded by organizing a meeting at the Bethel Church where he solicited support for enslaved blacks by the free blacks.He also declared that it was in order for free blacks to enjoy all the rights and privileges enjoyed by any other citizen of the United States. They used both the Philadelphia newspaper and the first black newspaper to address their grievances.
Another challenge Allen helped address was the increasingly restrictive laws. Such laws include the black code which required each black resident in Ohio to pay five dollars bond as a guarantee to their good behavior.This posed a great challenge to AME church at Ohio as the blacks had to migrate in large numbers due to lack of the money to pay. Allen called for another black leaders’ meeting to plan for another strategy. During this meeting, he was elected the president of the American Society of Free Persons of Colour. The society was seeking to improve the condition of the blacks in the US and to purchase land for the settlement of the landless blacks both in US and Canada. The meeting prioritized the need for the improvement of the conditions for the free blacks. He also led the free produce society which pledged to buy goods produced only by non-slave holders.
The legacy of Richard Allen
His contributions were acknowledged by William Lloyd Garrison who wrote about the Genius of Universal Emancipation. He noted that Allen was “one of the purest friends and patriots that ever exerted his energies in favor of civil and religious liberty…” His legacy remains strong to date. His church, AME has millions of members with several ministers today. He is still honored as one of the first black man to speak out for the rights of African Americans. He is also credited as the founder of the contemporary civil rights activists. It is said that Allen was insensible and indifferent to his own personal needs and wants. He denied himself all for the sake of others. He died a hero in the year 1831 leaving a legacy behind. His leadership had solidified the growing denomination and given it a national recognition. Is conclusion, Allen died both as civil leader and a religious leader as his church grew and later joined the antislavery campaign freeing many blacks.