The Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1794 by Richard Allen, an African-American Methodist minister. The congregation has been located at the corner of Sixth and Lombard Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, since that time, making this the oldest church property in the United States to be continuously owned by African Americans. The church was organized by African-American members of St. George's Methodist Church who walked out due to racial segregation in the worship services. The current church replaced the first one on the property.
In 1816 Allen brought together other black Methodist congregations from the region to organize the new African Methodist Episcopal Church denomination. He was elected bishop of this denomination. After the American Civil War, its missionaries went to the South to help freedmen and planted many new churches in the region.