Richard Allen (Bishop)
Marriage and family
Allen married Sarah Bass. Born into slavery in 1764 in Virginia's Isle of Wight County, she wasbrought to Philadelphia at age 18. She was free by 1800, when they met. They were marriedwithin a year. They had six children: Richard, Jr.; James, John, Peter, Sarah and Ann.In addition to the work of the family, Sara actively assisted Allen in the church and supportedwork to take care of runaway slaves, including feeding and clothing them. In 1827, seeing thatthe ministers coming to conference looked bedraggled, she organized Daughters of Conferenceas a women's organization to assist the church with their skills: Initially they mended garmentsand helped provide material support to the ministers. The women's organization continuedafter her death, taking on more social welfare issues for church members and the community.
Allen was qualified as a preacher in 1784, at the first conference of the Methodist Church inNorth America, in Baltimore, Maryland. He was allowed to lead services at 5 a.m..In 1786, Allen became a preacher at St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church, in Philadelphia,Pennsylvania, but was restricted to early morning services. As he attracted more black congregants, the church vestry voted to build a segregated gallery for the use of blacks. Allenalso regularly preached on the commons, slowly gaining a congregation of nearly 50, andsupporting himself with a variety of odd jobs.Allen and Absalom Jones, also a Methodist preacher, resented the white congregants' forcingthem to a segregated section for worship and prayer. They decided to leave St. George's to createindependent worship for African Americans. This brought some opposition from the whitechurch and the more established blacks of the community. In 1787 Allen and Jones led the black members out of St. George's Methodist Church.They formed the Free African Society (FAS), a non-denominational mutual aid society, whichassisted fugitive slaves and new migrants to the city. Allen along with Absalom Jones, WilliamGray and William Wilcher found an available lot on Sixth Street near Lombard. Allen negotiateda price and purchased this lot in 1787 to build a church, but it was years before they had abuilding. Now occupied by Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, this is the oldestparcel of real estate in the United States owned continuously by black people.Over time, most of the FAS members went with Absalom Jones to form a new congregation.They were drawn to the Episcopal Church and founded the African Church. This was accepted asa parish in the Episcopal Church and opened its doors on July 17, 1794 as the African Episcopal