By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —  Hundreds will pack into the sanctuary of Mother Bethel AME Church today for the unveiling of a U.S. postal stamp to commemorate the church’s founder, an abolitionist born into slavery in Philadelphia.

2016 will mark the 200th anniversary of the African Methodist Episcopal Church founded by Bishop Richard Allen. Born a slave in 1760, Allen purchased his own freedom and rose to prominence as a Methodist preacher.  But racism in worship lead him to start his own.

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“This stamp is significant and it’s long overdue,” says Reverend Mark Tyler, pastor of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Society Hill. He says 1500 people, including bishops and scholars from around the world, will attend today’s unveiling of the U.S. stamp featuring Allen.

Bishop Richard Allen U.S. postage stamp (photo credit U.S. Postal Service)

Bishop Richard Allen U.S. postage stamp (photo credit U.S. Postal Service)

“It is so vitally imporant that we have this stamp,” he says. “It says to people that there is a story here worth following up on.”

Jackie Dupont-Walker lead the lobbying effort to obtain a stamp. She says it began in 2004 and took great efforts, including gathering more than 40,000 signatures.

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“Rosa Parks, a card-carrying member of the AME Church, says she was inspired by Richard Allen. So was A. Phillip Randolf and Roy Wilkins,” she says. “We need this inspiration now more than ever.”

The event kicks off at noon at Mother Bethel AME Church.

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