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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersLiving the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Topic: Predicaments of Early Republican LifeTopic: ReligionTopic: PoliticsTopic: ExpansionTopic: Equality
Topic: Religion
Overview of Living the Revolution
Resource Menu: Religion
Text 1. Online Exhibition
Text 2. Jefferson/Madison
Text 3. Adams/Jefferson
Text 4. American Bible Society
Text 5. Forks of Elkhorn Baptist Church
Text 6. Rev. Peter Cartwright
Text 7. Richard Allen
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Text 8. Background
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Reading Guide
7.  Richard Allen, The Life, Experience, and Gospel Labours of the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen, 1833, excerpts
  Richard Allen

Like Peter Cartwright, Richard Allen experienced a deep religious conversion in his youth, joined the Methodist Church, became a traveling preacher, and wrote his memoirs as an old man. Unlike Cartwright, Allen was born an enslaved African American. Allowed to buy his freedom as a young man in Delaware, he became a traveling preacher, exhorting to white and black audiences and earning his living through hard menial labor. After becoming an assistant pastor in Philadelphia, he urged the creation of a church building for African American Methodists, but his plan met angry unprincipled opposition from church elders. Defeat was not in Allen's vocabulary, however, and he succeeded in establishing the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1794. 22 years later, in 1816, the AME Church became the first fully independent black church in America. We recommend that you pair Allen's and Cartwright's poignant memoirs in your syllabus. Important text for the classroom. 13 pages.

Discussion questions
  ·  Describe the "spiritual despotism" that Allen experiences in the newly free republic. How does he explain this dissonance of tyranny within freedom?
  ·  Despite the discrimination he faces, how does Allen reflect a free man "living the revolution"?
  ·  How does Allen explain the Methodist leaders' rejection of his plan for an African American Methodist church building? Why does he choose to remain in the Methodist Church?
  ·  Compare Allen's and Cartwright's experiences as converts and preachers. What judgment do they share of Methodist ministers who succumb to the temptations of power? What makes their judgment "American" at its core?

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Topic Framing Questions
  •  How was religious freedom defined in the new republic?
  •  How did rationalists and evangelicals differ on the place of religion in a republic? How did they agree?
  •  How did diverse religious communities contribute to a shared national identity?
  •  How could church-state separation co-exist with the conviction that religion is critical to a nation's strength?

Toolbox: Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Predicaments | Religion | Politics | Expansion | Equality

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