The Free African Society was founded as a mutual aid society by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones. The society was founded on April 12, 1787 to assist Philadelphia’s free black community. The two founders wanted a church that was free to people of any denomination, and that assisted the free black people in the community. The society helped the community in several ways such as helping community members learn how to read and write and by promoting a sense of belonging for free blacks. Society members had to pay monthly dues and abide by certain moral requirements. Abusing alcohol and not paying dues would cause a member to be expelled from the society.
The Free African Society wanted to debunk the beliefs that blacks were lazy, disorderly and violent. Excessive drinking, gambling, and lack of respect of enslaved black people were considered sins by the group. Society members who were in good standing could be assisted with burial payments, and financial aid could be provided for widows and their family members. The society would help children find a trade and pay tuition for children to go to school when there was no room available in the free schools. The society eventually experienced a schism that created the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the St. Thomas African Episcopal Church but brought about the end of the organization itself.