Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Black History Month - Richard Allen founder of AME Church


It is before the drum that one learns to know the samba. (Haiti)

1760: Richard Allen, the founder of African Methodist Episcopal Church, was born.

Whenever I visit the US, I try to put aside at least one Sunday when I visit a
Black Church. In my view, mainstream Caribbean churches, such as the Catholic and Anglican churches, suffer from close association with the colonial past. On the other hand, segregation forced Blacks to set up churches designed to serve their communities.

Richard Allen, who founded the African Methodist Episcopal church in Philadelphia, was born on this day 1816. Both his parents were born into slavery, and he was sold with them to a slave master who ultimately allowed Allen to buy freedom for himself and his brother.

He taught himself to read and write, and started out as a Methodist preacher, supporting himself with odd jobs. The Methodist church was then segregated, and therefore Allen served Black church members in a segregated area of the church. One day, in reaction to the racism in the church, Allen led a walkout from that church. He set up a Black congregation under Black leadership, despite opposition from whites and privileged Blacks. With those who left the Methodist church, Allen bought land that is now the oldest piece of real estate continuously owned by Blacks. At first the congregation had to have white oversight, but in 1868 the church became fully independent with Allen as its first bishop. 1794 he and his followers opened the doors of the all-black Mother Bethel AME Church.

Finding that other black congregations in the region were also seeking independence from white control, in 1816 Allen organized a new denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first fully independent black denomination. He was elected its first bishop in 1816.

Allen and his congregation campaigned actively against slavery. They operated a station on the Underground Railroad for escaping slaves, helped settle runaway slaves in Philadelphia, and provided aid to new settlements in Canada. The AME church also set up schools for Black children.

When Allen realized that other Black congregations wanted to throw off white control, he organized a new denomination: The African Methodist Episcopal Church. He was elected its first bishop in 1916.

Sounds of Blackness - Hold On, A Change is Comin'

Also on this date in:

1817: Abolitionist, editor, orator, author, statesman Frederick Douglass born. Born into slavery as Frederick Douglass purchased his freedom in 1845 and went on to become the greatest abolitionist of his time. (died Feb 20 1895)

1867- Augusta Institute, later Morehouse College, opened in Atlanta, GA.

1946 - Gregory Hines was born

Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr in the 1989 movie "Tap"

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When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

For more proverbs and for information on Lifelines: the Black Book of Proverbs, please visit us at