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Philadelphia in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Mother Bethel

1791

 
 
Mother Bethel Marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, March 30, 2008
1. Mother Bethel Marker
Inscription. Mother Bethel is the first African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in America, founded in 1791. Richard Allen (1760-1831), a former slave, was the founder, and later became the first bishop (1816) of the first African-American denomination in the United States. This site is the oldest parcel of land continuously owned by African Americans.

Mother Bethel is an outgrowth of the Free African Society established by Allen and Absalom Jones in April, 1787. Soon thereafter, Allen and Jones led a group of worshipers out of St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church to protest it policy of segregation. Two African-American churches developed as a result of this exodus. Absalom Jones founded the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas (the first Black Episcopal parish) in 1794. Preferring to remain a Methodist, Allen nurtured a congregation in a blacksmith shop which he hauled to this site for use as a house of worship. Officially dedicated by Bishop Francis Asbury (the father of American Methodism), it was the first of four structures on this site. The present structure, designed by Hazelhurst and Huckel, was built in 1889.

Mother Bethel's 200 year history reflects the African-American experience. Allen was in the forefront of the Abolitionist Movement; the church was an important station on the Underground Railroad as well
Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, March 30, 2008
2. Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church
Marker can be seen below street sign, lower right
as a recruiting station during the Civil War. The first national convention of African-Americans met here and many progressive enterprises were supported from this place. Allen opened a school for children in 1795. He called African Americans to public service during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793 and during the War of 1812. Great orators, Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth spoke from Bethel's pulpit, and Bethel played a major role in the birth of the first Black periodical and insurance company.

Today, the A.M.E. Church is an international denomination with over two million members for whom the anvil, a reminder of the founding by Richard Allen in a blacksmith shop, is a symbol self-help and self-determination. Many visitors from around the world visit Bethel each year, where the remains of Allen and his wife, Sarah, are entombed.

Richard Allen's vision of the Black church as a place where the African-American community could "build itself up" has inspired thousands of African-American churches and their leaders to articulate the needs and aspirations of America's Black citizens - whether thwarting efforts to colonize American Blacks in Africa in 1816 or promoting Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s.

[Illustration captions:]
Richard Allen, founder and first bishop, A.M.E. Church.
Sarah Allen (born Isle of Wight County, Virginia),
Main entrance to Mother Bethel. image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, March 30, 2008
3. Main entrance to Mother Bethel.
wife of Richard Allen.
Interior of church from horseshoe balcony toward pulpit and organ.
"Gaol in Walnut Street" (which may depict Mother Bethel's blacksmith shop in foreground), W. Burch & Son, 1799. American Philosophical Society
 
Erected by Old Philadelphia Congregations.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Francis Asbury, Traveling Methodist Preacher, and the National Historic Landmarks marker series.
 
Location. 39° 56.603′ N, 75° 9.118′ W. Marker is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia County. Marker is at the intersection of South 6th Street and Addison Street, on the left when traveling south on South 6th Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 419 South 6th Street, Philadelphia PA 19147, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church (a few steps from this marker); Free African Society (within shouting distance of this marker); Lombard Street Riot (within shouting distance of this marker); Francis Johnson (within shouting distance of this marker); Blackwell House (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line);
Mother Bethel Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, May 16, 2015
4. Mother Bethel Marker
W.E.B. Du Bois (about 300 feet away); A.M.E. Book Concern (about 400 feet away); Holy Trinity (about 800 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Philadelphia.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Other markers related to Absalom Jones
 
Also see . . .
1. Old Philadelphia Congregations. (Submitted on April 2, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
2. Richard Allen Museum - Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church. (Submitted on April 2, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
3. Mother Bethel A.M.E. (on Virtual Tour of Historic Philadelphia). (Submitted on April 2, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
 
Categories. Abolition & Underground RRAfrican AmericansChurches, Etc.Civil RightsLandmarksNotable BuildingsNotable Persons
 
Mother Bethel Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, May 16, 2015
5. Mother Bethel Marker
Memorial to the founder, Richard Allen image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, March 30, 2008
6. Memorial to the founder, Richard Allen
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on April 2, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 2,354 times since then and 29 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on April 2, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   3. submitted on April 15, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   4, 5. submitted on May 19, 2015, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Md 21234.   6. submitted on April 15, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Christopher Busta-Peck was the editor who published this page.
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