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.

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