Preacher, activist, and writer Richard Allen will be honored with a U.S. postage stamp as part of the Postal Service’s Black Heritage series. Allen founded a denomination, and made an incredible impact on the civil rights movement.
He was born into slavery, but was converted to Christianity at 17-years-old and began preaching to those on his plantation and at local Methodist churches. He convinced his slave master, Stokeley Sturgis, to “allow visiting Methodist preachers to hold services at his house,” according to Religion News.
Allen helped lead Sturgis to Christ, and Sturgis encouraged him to purchase his freedom. Allen became a traveling preacher throughout Delaware and surrounding states. When he ran out of resources, he went to work. He didn’t want to rely on financial support from his congregation, so he was started businesses offering blacksmithing, shoemaking and chimney-sweeping services.
In 1794, Allen founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church because of segregation and persecution against black preachers in the church. Emory University’s Rev. Robert M. Franklin said, “The birth of strong black institutions is a part of his legacy. This is long before any of the black college movement emerges.”
He licensed Jarena Lee to preach, a female evangelist and travelling preacher. He also founded institutions like “the Free African Society, which helped newly freed blacks develop leadership skills. He also founded an organization that promoted the education of black schoolchildren,” according to Religion News.
Quotes from Richard Allen (1760 – 1831)
“The Lord was pleased to strengthen us, and remove all fear from us, and disposed our hearts to be as useful as possible.”
“We who have been born and nurtured on this soil, we, whose habits, manners, and customs are the same in common with other Americans, can never consent to – be the bearers of the redress offered by that Society to that much afflicted.”
“The plain and simple gospel suits best for any people.”