From Enslavement to National Leader
: Richard Allen (1760–1831)

Relatively few people have ever heard of Richard Allen, including myself until I stumbled across part of his story while conducting research in Philadelphia in 2008. The more I found out about him, the more I was stunned that he was not more broadly represented in history books. Discovering his story inspired me to find out more, a journey that culminated in a 16-page article about his life and accomplishments, adding to and correcting data points in some histories, and a 22-page article about his family and some of his descendants, many identified for the first time in print. Both were published in the now-defunct Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine (see recommended references at the end of this article).

Because American history has done such a fine job of omitting and in many cases actively erasing so much African American history, I feel a personal responsibility to do what I can, where I can to bring some of that history back into the light where it belongs. So in recognition of African American History Month, I offer this brief profile, derived from my first article on Richard Allen, which includes the full citations to this data and more.

What follows is the essential, bare-bones story of a man who was born into colonial slavery, found relig­ious conversion in the burgeoning Methodist movement of the mid-Atlantic, purchased his freedom by his own labors during the Revo­lution, was a key figure in the development of free African society in the early Republic, was a founder of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and became its first bishop.

Only NGS members have access to full articles of NGS Monthly. Please log in or click here to learn more about joining the National Genealogical Society.

If you have trouble logging on or accessing the articles, please contact webmaster@ngsgenealogy.org

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *