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On this date in 1791, the groundbreaking for the Bethel AME Church of Philadelphia occurred. Mother Bethel Church (as it is called) was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Bethel AME is the second-oldest Black congregation (after St. Thomas in Philadelphia) in the country.
The ground on which Mother Bethel stands is the oldest parcel of real estate continuously owned by African-Americans in the United States. The second, Prince Hall Masonic Lodge, was founded there. Lucretia Mott, abolitionist and women's rights advocate, abolitionist and journalist Frederick Douglass, and William Still, a moving force behind the Underground Railroad, were among those who spoke from the rostrum at Mother Bethel.
Ben Franklin contributed money to the African Methodist Episcopal Church. A female Mother Bethel preacher, Jarena Lee, was one of first black women to speak out publicly against slavery. Breaking ground that day were Absalom Jones and Richard Allen.
The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage
by Susan Altman
Copyright 1997, Facts on File, Inc. New York