Today, SEPTA gathered with elected officials and community leaders to celebrate the renaming of Richard Allen Lane Station on the Chestnut Hill West Line. New historical panels honoring Allen were also unveiled, and are now on permanent display at the station.
SEPTA worked with leaders of First Episcopal District AME Church to design the 2’x 3’ decorative panels, which tell the story of Allen’s contributions to racial justice in Philadelphia as a preacher during the late 18th century. The panels will be located in the garden area of the outbound side of SEPTA’s Chestnut Hill West Regional Rail Station (Cresheim Road and Allens Lane, Philadelphia).
“Our stations can be so much more than a place to wait for a train or a bus. These are wonderful spaces for sharing our history through public art that can inform and inspire,” said SEPTA General Manager and CEO Leslie S. Richards. “SEPTA is honored to have worked with the community on this very important and enduring effort at Richard Allen Lane Station.”
Allens Lane was originally named after William Allen, the 26th mayor of Philadelphia. But Allen was an enslaver and a British loyalist who was condemned in his own lifetime by abolitionists for his stance in favor of the continued enslavement of Black people. Earlier this year, Philadelphia City Council passed a resolution introduced by Council Member Cindy Bass to rename the street to honor the multi-talented leader, Richard Allen.
“We must closely examine popular narratives we’ve been so conditioned to embrace, especially versions of the past that marginalize the value of Black people and other communities of struggle,” said Pennsylvania State Representative Christopher Rabb. “Changing who Allens Lane is named after is a step in the right direction towards achieving racial equity and inclusion.”
Allen went on to co-found the Free African Society and the African Methodist Episcopal Church where he became a bishop. The AME church is the first independent Black denomination in the United States. He opened his first AME church in 1794 in Philadelphia, which is the Mother Church of the first national Black church denomination in the United States. It rests upon the oldest parcel of land in the country continuously owned by African Americans.