RELIGION

AME Church marks 200 years in birthplace of Philadelphia

  • A sculpture depicting Bishop Richard Allen stands in front of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Wednesday, July 6, 2016. The church marks its 200th anniversary in the city where it was founded by a former slave. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

    A sculpture depicting Bishop Richard Allen stands in front of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Wednesday, July 6, 2016. The church marks its 200th anniversary in the city where it was founded by a former slave. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)  (The Associated Press)

  • Hymnals sit on a shelf at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Wednesday, July 6, 2016. The church marks its 200th anniversary in the city where it was founded by a former slave. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

    Hymnals sit on a shelf at Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Wednesday, July 6, 2016. The church marks its 200th anniversary in the city where it was founded by a former slave. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)  (The Associated Press)

  • Shown is an interior view of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Wednesday, July 6, 2016. The church marks its 200th anniversary in the city where it was founded by a former slave. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

    Shown is an interior view of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Wednesday, July 6, 2016. The church marks its 200th anniversary in the city where it was founded by a former slave. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)  (The Associated Press)

One of the oldest black institutions in the country is marking its bicentennial in Philadelphia this week.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church is holding its general conference in the city. The denomination was also founded in Philadelphia by Richard Allen, a former slave who broke with the Methodist Church over racism in the late 1700s.

The church flourished after the Civil War and has been central to the struggle against injustice and inequality for blacks. It has also historically emphasized economic empowerment and education, starting several historically black colleges.

The AME Church was in the spotlight last year after nine black worshippers at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, were killed by a white gunman who targeted the church for its historic significance.