The invisible institution provided physical and psychological relief from the horrific conditions of servitude: within the confines of hush arbors, bonds people found unfamiliar dignity and a sense of self-esteem. Similarly, the A. M. E. congregations confronted white paternalism by organizing their people into units of resistance to fight collectively for social equality and political self-direction. And finally, the antebellum church did not only empower Blacks by structuring their communities; it also supplied them with individual political leaders.
David Walker made two stellar contributions to the Black struggle for freedomhe both created and popularized anti-ruling class philosophy. He intrepidly broadcasted the conditional necessity of violence in abolishing slavery demanding to be heard by his suffering brethren and the American people and their children in both the North and the South. As churches grew in size and importance, the Black pastors role as community leader became supremely influential and unquestionably essential in the fight against Jim Crow.
For instance, in 1906, when the city officials of Nashville, Tennessee, segregated the streetcars, R. H. Boyd, a prominent leader in the National Baptist Convention, organized a Black boycott against the system. He even went so far as to operate his own streetcar line at the height of the conflict. To Boyd and his constituents no setback was ever final, and the grace of God was irrefutability infinite. African Methodist Episcopal¦Mark of Independence When Richard Allen was 17, he experienced a religious conversion that changed his life forever.
(PBS, Allen) Even though born into slavery in Philadelphia in 1760, he became not only free but influential, a founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and its first bishop. Allen, recognize as one of the first African-Americans to be emancipated during the Revolutionary Era, had to forge an identity for his people as well as for himself. Richard Allen Allowed by his repentant owner to buy his freedom, Allen earned a living sawing cordwood and driving a wagon during the Revolutionary War. After the war he furthered the Methodist cause by becoming a licensed exhorter, preaching to blacks and whites from New York to South Carolina.
To reconcile his faith and his African-American identity, Allen decided to form his own congregation. He gathered a group of ten black Methodists and took over a blacksmiths shop in the increasingly black southern section of the city, converting it to the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church hence, the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Allen was chosen as the first bishop of the church, the first fully independent black denomination in America. He had succeeded in charting a separate religious identity for African-Americans.
Although the Bethel Church opened in a ceremony led by Bishop Francis Asbury in July 1794, its tiny congregation worshiped separate from our white brethren. In 1807 the Bethel Church added an African Supplement to its articles of incorporation; in 1816 it won legal recognition as an independent church. In the same year Allen and representatives from four other black Methodist congregations (in Baltimore; Wilmington, Delaware; Salem, New Jersey; and Attleboro, Pennsylvania) met at the Bethel Church to organize a new denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
To be noted, the white Methodists of the New York Conference resisted the move toward independence, but those of the Philadelphia Conference, in Richard Allens territory, gave a conditional blessing, an irony that must have galled the Bethelites (as Allens group was popularly known). Of the two black denominations, the Bethelites enjoyed greater growth and more stable leadership in the pre-Civil War decades.