The Free African Society is a foundation to advance the state of the Black African diaspora in Philadelphia and greater Philadelphia region to bring together the resources, skills, and talents that empower the infrastructure of Black industries and institutions.
The mission of the Free African Society is to create the constituency and communion needed for the Black African diaspora in Philadelphia to independently advance their own education, employment, entrepreneurship, enterprises, and estate across fields, disciplines, and industries. The vision is to see Philadelphia’s Black African diaspora’s history, heritage, culture, and tradition made healthy and whole. Our action convenes leaders from across the world to profess, process, program and progress various projects that improve Black life and directly invest into those initiatives for change.
Founded by Richard Allen (1760-1831) and Absalom Jones (1746-1818) on April 12, 1787, the Free African Society was responsible for establishing the first Black religious institutions in the city of Philadelphia, and as a nondenominational education, economic, and emotional support society it provided fellowship, a place of worship, and monetary support for members and their families in case of sickness or death. Supporting widows, orphans, the sick, the unemployed, and children who were not allowed into White schools to learn, the society expanded to care for the social and economic well-being of its members and gave financial assistance during times of economic difficulty. The society helped to care for the ill during Philadelphia’s yellow fever epidemic of 1793 by nursing the sick, burying the deceased, and transporting the ill to centers outside where they could be quarantined and medically treated.
The Free African Society went on to be responsible for establishing the first independent Black churches in the United States. Those churches are Bethel A.M.E. Church by Richard Allen, and the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas by Absalom Jones. The Free African Society’s founding members were all free Black men and included the likes of Samuel Baston, Joseph Johnson, Cato Freedman, Caesar Cranchell, James Potter and William White. Notable members included African American abolitionists such as Cyrus Bustill, James Forten, and William Gray.