The Postal Service will issue a stamp this week to honor Richard Allen, a prominent African-American religious and civic leader during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Allen, who was born into slavery in 1760, purchased his own freedom as a young man and became a traveling minister throughout the Mid-Atlantic states.
Later, Allen became a social activist. He rallied black Philadelphians to serve as aid workers during a yellow fever epidemic in 1793 and prepared the black community to defend the city during the War of 1812.
Eager to establish an independent African-American church, Allen purchased an old blacksmith’s shop and moved it to land he owned. Bethel Church was dedicated in 1794 and soon attracted several hundreds of members.
In 1816, Allen summoned other black Methodist leaders to Philadelphia, where together they founded the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, electing and consecrating Allen as its first bishop.
Today, Mother Bethel AME Church stands on the site where Allen converted the blacksmith’s shop. The denomination boasts more than 2.5 million members.
USPS will dedicate the Richard Allen stamp, the 39th entry in the Black Heritage series, Feb. 2 at Mother Bethel AME Church.