Bishop Richard Allen, the founder of the A.M.E. Church, was a hero to many and a bust erected in his honor in 1876 is thought to be first of its kind created by and for African-Americans. The monument was unveiled in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park during the Centennial International Exposition of 1876, the first official “World’s Fair.”
Allen was born into slavery on February 14, 1760, and though details of his place of birth have been heavily debated, some saying Delaware is his birth state. After hearing a white Methodist preacher rail against slavery, Allen converted to Methodism at 17, and was later able to buy his freedom for $2,000 to relocate to Philadelphia.
In 1799, Allen became the first Black ordained minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and in 1816, with the help of other Black Methodist churches, founded the African Methodist Episcopal church. Bishop Allen was a vocal opponent of slavery who inspired enslaved and free Black people who shared his passion to see all people free.
The bust of Allen was on display at the exposition but later ended up in the hands of Wilberforce University in Ohio into where it sat, neglected and in storage. In 2010, Wilberforce loaned the bust out for a ceremony marking Allen’s 250th birthday at the First District A.M.E. headquarters.
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