Today, we will focus on two of our earliest religious leaders: Absalom Jones and Richard Allen

Absalom Jones


Richard Allen


Richard Allen (1760-1831)

Richard Allen, the founder and first Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was born a slave on February 14, 1760 on the estate of Benjamin Chew, Chief Justice of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from 1774-1777.

Richard Allen, his parents and three other children were sold to a Mr. Stokeley in Delaware, near Dover. Allen recorded that Stokeley was a very tender and humane man who was more like a father to his slaves than a master.

As Richard and his brother grew older, they were permitted to attend meetings of the Methodist Society. Allen was converted at the age of 17. He began preaching in 1780. Through thrift and industry, he and his brother worked at night to pay for their freedom.

He commenced traveling in 1783 and later returned to Philadelphia and joined the white congregation at St. Georges’s Methodist Episcopal Church. He was licensed to preach in 1784 and was permitted to hold services in the morning about 5 a.m.


In 1786 the membership of St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia included both blacks and whites. However, the white members met that year and decided that thereafter black members should sit only in the balcony.

Two black Sunday worshipers, Absalom Jones (1746-1818) and Richard Allen (1760-1831), whose enthusiasm for the Methodist Church had brought many blacks into the congregation, learned of the decision only when, on the following Sunday, ushers tapped them on the shoulder during the opening prayers, and demanded that they move to the balcony without waiting for the end of the prayer. They walked out, followed by the other black members.

Absalom Jones conferred with William White, Episcopal Bishop of Philadelphia, who agreed to accept the group as an Episcopal parish. Jones would serve as lay reader, and, after a period of study, would be ordained and serve as rector.

Allen wanted the group to remain Methodist, and in 1793 he left to form a Methodist congregation. In 1816 he left the Methodists to form a new denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (Ame).

Jones (ordained deacon and priest in 1795 and 1802) and Allen (ordained deacon and elder in 1799 and 1816) were the first two black Americans to receive formal ordination in any denomination.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church Zion (Ame Zion) formed in New York in about 1796 for similar reasons. The two groups were well organized before they heard of each other.

The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, also historically black, was an offshoot in 1870 of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. (The Methodists split into North and South before the War of 1861-1865, and have since re-united.)


Freedom’s Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers by Richard Newman

A narrative of the proceedings of the black people, during the late awfulcalamity in Philadelphia in the year 1793 and a refutation of somecensures, thrown upon them in some late publications. by Absalom and Richard Allen Jones

The story of the first of the Blacks, the pathfinder Absalom Jones, 1746-1818 by George F Bragg

Who was the Reverend Absalom Jones?: 1746-1818 A.D by Civet Chakwal Kristof

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