Black History Month 2014: The first Black people to… create a fully independent African-American denomination

African Methodist Episcopal Church shield

African Methodist Episcopal Church shield

Rev. Richard Allen

Rev. Richard Allen

Every year for Black History Month I explore the obvious and not so obvious parts of American history that those called Black have taken part in. The things that we (Black people) have done other than be stolen from our homeland and made forced labor in a land foreign to us. I’m going to start this series by looking up the first time someone African-American did something and broke the color barrier in that activity or field. I’ll be starting with Wikipedia and working my way out:

I will be learning a lot of this as I go since I am a product of the standardized Euro/Anglo/Caucasian leaning public school system. I hope you enjoy learning with me. I’ll be going down the list chronologically as it appears in the Wikipedia article.

For my tenth entry this month:

1816:  First fully independent African-American denomination: African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME)

The African Methodist Episcopal Church, usually called the A.M.E. Church, is a predominantly African-American Methodist denomination based in the United States. It was founded by the Rev. Richard Allen in PhiladelphiaPennsylvania, in 1816 from several black Methodist congregations in the mid-Atlantic area that wanted independence from white Methodists. Allen was consecrated its first bishop in 1816.

Richard Allen (February 14, 1760 – March 26, 1831)[1] was a minister, educator, and writer, and the founder in 1794 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. Allen was one of America’s most active and influential black leaders. He focused on organizing a denomination where free blacks could worship without racial oppression and where slaves could find a measure of dignity. He worked to upgrade the social status of the black community, organizing Sabbath schools to teach literacy, and promoting national organizations to develop political strategies.

Born into slavery, Allen had no formal education. As a young man, he 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.

More information can be found at the AME’s official website


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