A Rochester Institute of Technology professor and the biography he wrote about Richard Allen, the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, are key parts to a yearlong study of the church being discussed Friday, Sept. 15, at the Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, D.C.
Richard Newman, a professor of history at RIT, wrote Freedom’s Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church and the Black Founding Fathers in 2008. Friday evening, he’ll give a lecture at the church – known as the “National Cathedral” of African Methodism – to talk about Richard Allen in the American Revolutionary period, and what his work means today.
“He could be considered a founding father too, because he talked about civil rights and equal justice,” Newman said. “During his lifetime, slavery was thriving. He died 30 years before the Civil War. He would be happy there were many steps towards emancipation and civil rights.”
Newman said Allen also would be pleased to learn about the expansion of equal rights for other minorities and women. “But he would also say we have a lot yet to do and roll up his sleeves as an activist minister.”
Kristin Henning, co-chair of the Richard Allen Advisory Committee at the church, wanted a community-wide forum about Allen to be held at Metropolitan AME, a national flagship church.
“It is at the heart of social justice in the AME church,” she said. “It is the place where presidents, national political leaders and Supreme Court justices have visited.”
The church’s pastor, William H. Lamar IV, led a segment of the congregation through a reading of Newman’s book about Allen.
“We created study guides and teaching notes,” Henning said. “The members of our study were so inspired, we formed a Richard Allen Advisory Committee to develop a year of events to provide our congregation, local community and regional AME connection with a more accurate and complete narrative of Richard Allen.”
Henning said Newman has helped many members of the church understand Allen “more deeply than we ever thought possible. Your biography transformed our understanding of Allen from a ‘reactionary’ who took advantage of an opportunity to lead black Methodists out of a white church, to a ‘founder’ who was visionary, proactive and strategic in his leadership.”