Richard Allen,the founder and first Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was born a slave on February 14, 1760 on the Benjamin Chew estate. Deeply religious from an early, age, Allen was converted at the age of 17. He began preaching in 1780 and was ordained in 1799. Through thrift and industry, he and his brother worked at night to pay for their freedom.
Despite his lack of formal medical training, Allen was a noted “Bleeder”, the equivalent of our present day surgeons. Dr. Benjamin Rush, a leading physician of the time and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, gave praise to Bishop Allen for his services during the Black Plague in 1793 which took the lives of thousands of Philadelphians.
In 1791 Allen established what was known as the Blacksmith Shop Meeting House when he purchased an abandoned blacksmith shop forma man named Sims and moved it to a plot of ground on 6th Street between Lombard and Pine Streets. This building was dedicated as a church in 1794 by Bishop Francis A. Asbury of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
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