Black Church Figures You Should Know - Richard Allen

Why the series?

Historical Theology and Church History in the African American context is rarely celebrated. That is a very sad occasion. There is much we can learn from the rich tradition of the African American church. When we do, it affirms the great doctrine that all men are created in the Image of God and it kills the great sin of intellectual racism.

What about the series?

A few things must be noted about our list. First and foremost, please be aware that appearances on the list do not automatically confirm theological content and biblical orthodoxy. Please consider each figure in light on proper biblical interpretation and refer to our statement of beliefs when in doubt. Secondly, this list is nowhere near being exhaustive in scope or content. We are barely scratching the surface and this is merely the tip of the iceberg. We considered appearances on the list by surveying several avid supporters for their considerations based upon the figures of significant impact, rich content, and historical significance.

Richard Allen (1760-1831) – Father of the AME Church


Bishop Richard Allen, the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church was born on February 14, 1760 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Born in slavery to Mr. Benjamin Chew, a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Allen was also the son of an African father and a bi-racial mother. At the age of seven, the Allen family was sold to Stokley Sturgis, a plantation owner in Delaware. He was later separated from his mother and three of six of her children as they were sold again to another slave owner, while his sister and older brother remained. As he and his brother aged, they were permitted to attend religious meetings of the Methodist Society. At the age of seventeen, Allen and his brother were converted to Christianity and they joined the Methodist Society. Their example and leadership on the plantation subsequently caused many, including his owner Sturgis, to believe in the faith and they were later able to earn their freedom. In 1783, Allen began to preach the Gospel across the northeast. As knowledge of him spread, he was invited in 1786 to preach regularly at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church. As the amount of black attendees grew, hostility developed within the church. That led them to separate and found the Free African Society(FAS) in 1787, led by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones-Richard’s friend in the ministry. In 1795 a meeting place was constructed, named “The Blacksmith Shop Meeting House”. The church eventually would be named “Bethel”. In April of 1816, Allen and 15 representatives from other Black Methodist congregations convened at the Bethel church to establish and organize the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first black independent denomination, with Allen as their first Bishop. Today the AME church has membership in thirty-nine countries on five continents.

For more information visit:

The AME Church

A Brief History of the Black Church

Mother Bethel Richard Allen