Lauren Cardenas

Lauren Cardenas During her time at Swarthmore College, Religion major Lauren Cardenas '12 interned at Philadelphia’s Mother Bethel AME church in preparation for Richard Allen's 250th birthday. Allen was the founder and bishop of the first independent African American denomination in the United States. Cardenas became interested in the project while taking the Professor Chireau’s African American Religions class in the fall of 2009.
She wrote the text that follows during her internship:

I'm currently conducting research in preparation for Richard Allen's 250th birthday. The celebration will be international in scope, will bring heightened attention to the life of Bishop Allen, his role in creating freedom in Philadelphia, his founding of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, his work with the Underground Railroad Movement, and his participation in helping lay the foundation for the modern Civil Rights Movement.

Right now, the task I'm charged with is to create a Richard Allen historic timeline, a list of Richard Allen web resources, and a Richard Allen bibliography—all of which will be available to visitors who wish to learn more about the legacy of Mother Bethel A.M.E. church and its instrumental position in the liberation of slaves, the creation of a Black identity in the U.S., and its role in politics today.

I feel this is an extraordinary opportunity for everyone involved in the project to showcase a rich and vibrant facet of U.S. history, that does not receive the attention, consideration, and respect it deserves. At the time of the Revolutionary War, Philadelphia was truly the seat of power for our nation's founding fathers—Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and the like. But we forget other founding fathers—those just as visionary in their thinking, just as important to the concept of what it means to be "American"—and among them, stand Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, James Forten and numerous others.

The work is difficult, but rewarding—for my own sense of spirituality, as well as my studies in Religion here at Swarthmore. I'm grateful to be part of such an important project and I know we will be successful in our endeavors.