One of Philadelphia’s foremost Black pioneers will be honored with a new postage stamp.
The United States Postal Service will pay tribute to Richard Allen next month with a Forever stamp.
Allen founded Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1794, a time when Black worshipers felt disconnected from the city’s predominantly white churches.
The issuing of the stamp marks the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the AME church, which occurred in 1815 after a series of lawsuits to separate from the American Episcopal Church, according to an official AME history.
On its website, the postal service announced the Forever stamp, recognizing Allen as an “inspiring figure whose life and work resonate profoundly in American history.” It called the church “one of the most important institutions in African-American life.”
The Rev. Mark Tyler, pastor of Mother Bethel AME Church, said Monday that many of the parishioners signed the petition circulated in support of a postage stamp honoring Allen. He credited Jacquelyn DuPont-Walker with pressing for the stamp honoring the father of Mother Bethel.
“Our members are absolutely excited about the postage stamp, and that it would be unveiled at Mount Bethel,” Tyler said, referring to a stamp issuance ceremony scheduled for Feb. 2 at the church, located at 6th and Lombard streets.
The church also operates a museum that acquires, maintains and places on public exhibition upwards of 1,800 primary documents and artifacts related to Allen’s founding of Mother Bethel AME Church. The church is set to celebrate a banner year in 2016 by hosting the 50th session of general conference for the AME denomination and has been selected as host of the 200th Philadelphia annual conference from May 16-22, 2016.
The Historical Commission for Mother Bethel AME has tapped the expertise of Margaret Jerrido, who serves as archives consultant and archivist of the archived collections, according to the church’s website. She is the former director of urban archives for Samuel L. Paley Library at Temple University.
Bishop Gregory G.M. Ingram, presiding bishop of the First Episcopal District of the church, based in Philadelphia, also praised the recognition of Allen.
“When Richard Allen and his associates withdrew from St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church, here in Philadelphia, they began a movement of religious freedom which initiated and accelerated many other movements for freedom in all categories,” Ingram said.
Allen was born into slavery and was later emancipated during the Revolutionary War, according to the African Methodist Episcopal Church leadership, who commended Allen for fighting against racial inequality in the predominantly white Methodist churches.
“It’s great to see one of the country’s most overlooked heroes gain national recognition,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “As a city, we are honored to have Richard Allen as a part of our history and even more honored to be hosting the kick-off of the celebration of his life at the A.M.E. Church. I hope that recognizing Richard Allen will encourage recognition for even more of our African-American founding fathers.”
Other local religious leaders also praised the commemoration.
The Rev. Kevin Johnson, president and CEO for Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialized Center, the workforce training program, and senior pastor for the nondenominational Dare To Imagine Church, said, “I applaud the United States Postal Service for honoring Richard Allen in this way. When you talk about the genesis of African-American religion in America, the African Methodist Episcopal Church has always been at the forefront.”
Johnson said the postage stamp honoring Allen was overdue considering he had left his legacy before other Black Heritage stamp honorees were born.
Since 1985, the popular stamp series has honored 38 Black men and women who have helped change the world for the better. In addition to Allen, others who have been issued a stamp include Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Sojourner Truth, Malcolm X, W.E.B. duBois, Madame C.J. Walker, Jackie Robinson, Mary Bethune McLeod, A. Philip Randolph, Paul Robeson, Thurgood Marshall and Wilt Chamberlain.