James Forten
(1766-1842)

Died aged c. 76

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.

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Commemorated on 1 plaque

James Forten (1766-1842). A wealthy sailmaker who employed multi-racial craftsmen, Forten was a leader of the African-American community in Philadelphia and a champion of reform causes. The American Antislavery Society was organized in his house here in 1833.

336 Lombard St., Philadelphia, PA, United States where they lived