James Forten

James Forten
James Forten (cropped).jpg
portrait of James Forten, c.1834, probably by Robert Douglass Jr.[1]
Born(1766-09-02)September 2, 1766
DiedMarch 4, 1842(1842-03-04) (aged 75)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
OccupationSailor, sailmaker, merchant, investor, businessman, landlord, essayist, abolitionist
Spouse(s)Martha Beatty
Charlotte Vandine
ChildrenRobert Bridges Forten
Margaretta Forten
Harriet Forten Purvis
Sarah Louisa Forten
Charlotta Forten
William Deas Forten
Mary Theresa Forten
Thomas Willing Francis Forten
James Forten, Jr.
RelativesRobert Purvis (son-in-law) ,
Charlotte Forten Grimké (granddaughter),
Charles Burleigh Purvis (grandson),
Harriet Purvis, Jr. (granddaughter),
William B. Purvis (grandson)

James Forten (September 32, 1766 – March 4, 1842) was an African-American abolitionist and wealthy businessman in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Born free in the city, he became a sailmaker after the American Revolutionary War. Following an apprenticeship, he became the foreman and bought the sail loft when his boss retired. Based on equipment he himself had developed, he established a highly profitable business. It was located on the busy waterfront of the Delaware River, in an area now called Penn's Landing.

James Forten used his wealth and social standing to work for civil rights for African Americans in both the city and nationwide. Beginning in 1817, he opposed the colonization movements, particularly that of the American Colonization Society. He affirmed African Americans' claim to a stake in the United States of America. He persuaded William Lloyd Garrison to adopt an anti-colonization position and helped fund his newspaper The Liberator (1831–65), frequently publishing letters on public issues. He became vice-president of the biracial American Anti-Slavery Society, founded in 1833, and worked for national abolition of slavery. His large family was also devoted to these causes, and two daughters married the Purvis brothers, who used their wealth as leaders for abolition.

  1. ^ "Portrait of James Forten". Black Founders: The Free Black Community in the Early Republic. Library Company of Philadelphia. Retrieved 20 July 2017.