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Celebrating Black History Month #10

Richard Allen (1760-1831) was born a slave, ordained the first African American Methodist deacon, and founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1787. With experience as an itinerant and resident Methodist minister, he knew of the importance of music to his first A.M.E. congregation and so published the first hymnal designed exclusively for an all-black congregation.

A Collection of Spiritual Songs and Hymns Selected from Various Authors by Richard Allen, African Minister was published in 1801. It included 54 hymn texts without music chosen from Watts, Wesley, and other favored Methodist and Baptist hymn writers. A second edition within a year included ten additional hymns. The hymnal's significance was that it included hymns that especially appealed to his congregation -- their favorites. "Thus the hymnal provides an index to the hymns popular among black congregations of the new nation… representing the black worshipers' own choices, not the choices of white missionaries and ministers." (Source: Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans: A History, pages 85-86.)

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