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Thu, 04.12.1787

The Free African Society is Founded


*The Free African Society (FAS) was founded on this date in 1787.  This benevolent organization held religious services and provided mutual aid for "free Africans and their descendants".  

FAS founding membership; all free Black men, including Samuel Baston, Joseph Johnson, Cato Freedman, Caesar Cranchell, James Potter, and William White.  Notable members included Black abolitionists such as Cyrus Bustill, James Forten, and William Gray.  The Society was founded in Philadelphia by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones. It was the first Black religious institution in the city and led to the establishment of the first independent Black churches in the United States.  

The Free African Society developed as part of the rise in civic organizing following American independence in the 1776 to 1783 Revolutionary War; it was the first Black mutual aid society in Philadelphia.  The city was a growing center of free Blacks, attracted to its jobs and other opportunities. By 1790, the city had 2,000 free Black residents, which continued to increase.  In the first two decades after the war, inspired by revolutionary ideals, many slaveholders freed their slaves, especially in the Upper South. Northern states largely abolished slavery.

Numerous freedmen migrated to Philadelphia from rural areas of Pennsylvania and the South; it was a growing center of free Black society. In addition, their numbers were increased by free people of color who were refugees from the Haitian Revolution in Saint-Domingue and fugitive slaves escaping from the South.   

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