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The following definitions may be useful as you explore the Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia Teacher Resources, Big Ideas, and Primary Sources. Print or download the PDF for even easier access as you explore.

The actions of a person or group to legally end a system of oppression, such as slavery.

The ability to use power in one’s own life.

Not identified with a name, often to keep a person’s identity secret.

To close or seal off a place in order to prevent people and/or goods from entering or leaving.

A form of protest in which people refuse to buy or use the goods or services of an organization or person.

Civil Disobedience
The refusal to follow a particular law or the act of demanding change by peaceful protest.

The ending of a policy that separates people, usually because of their race, religion or gender.

A government sponsored ban on trade or other commercial activity with a particular country or countries.

Owned by another person. Saying “enslaved person” rather than “slave” can remind people of the humanity of the person who is in the condition of being owned by another person.

A person who creates and operates a new business, usually bearing most of the risks and enjoying most of the rewards.

A wooden tool used in ropework (to help untie knots and get in between the twists of a rope) and canvaswork (to create and shape holes called grommets).

A person who supervises and directs others in a place of work.

Fugitive Slave Act (1793 & 1850)
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 allowed for the capture and return of freedom-seekers by allowing local governments to seize and return them to their former owners. The act also penalized anyone who assisted a freedom-seeker. Another Fugitive Slave Act was enacted in 1850 before the Civil War with harsher punishments for anyone that helped a freedom-seeker.

The compartment of a train, ship or airplane where food is prepared and cooked.

Indentured Servants
Individuals who have a contract to serve as laborers for a specific amount of time before receiving their freedom. These contracts were often entered into willingly by British subjects who wanted passage across the Atlantic Ocean to the British colonies but could not afford it themselves or by those — Europeans, free people of African descent — who needed food, shelter, and clothing and the opportunity to learn a skill. Sometimes British subjects were sentenced to indentured servitude as punishment for a crime or because they could not pay their debts.

The wide scale development of industries in a country or region.

No longer separated and acting as one unit.

Involving people of different races.

To free an individual enslaved person or a small number of enslaved people. A similar word, emancipate, generally applies to larger numbers of enslaved people.

A woman who is the head of her family or tribe.

A small group of people, usually soldiers who eat their meals together and share a living space such as a tent.

A person who moves from one place to another, usually in order to find work or better living conditions.

A specific amount of money a person receives from a government as payment for their past public service (including in the military) or to help pay for their living expenses when they reach a certain age.

A plea or a written document expressing complaints and desired actions, signed by one or multiple members of a community.

People who seek to help others, especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.

The beginning of a document that states its purpose.

An earlier action or event that is seen as an example or guide for similar actions or events.

A private sailing ship that has been authorized by a government to attack and capture enemy vessels and supplies in a time of war. The term can also be used to describe a sailor who serves aboard a privateer ship.

To sign or give formal approval to a treaty, constitution, contract, or agreement to make it officially valid.

A group of soldiers in a military unit that fight together on foot or on horseback. The size of a regiment varies from army to army, but it was usually hundreds of soldiers segregated, separated or divided into groups.

Sailmaker's Palm
Protection for the palm of a hand while sewing.

Separated or divided.

A belief or generalization (often unfair and untrue) that people have about a specific group.

The right to vote in an election.

To refrain from drinking alcohol or to moderate a specific behavior.

Unalienable (or Inalienable)
Unable to be taken away from or given away by someone. Often used in relation to a person’s individual rights.

Underground Railroad
A network of routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early 1800s used by enslaved people to help them escape slavery and gain their freedom in a free state or Canada.

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This graphic depicts a teacher in front of a chalkboard and by clicking the image, it will take you to Teacher Resources.

Black Founders Teacher Resources

Access modular activities and ready-made worksheets to help your students dig deeper into the lives and legacies of free Black Philadelphia, Revolutionary War privateer, and successfull businessman James Forten and his descendants.
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This graphic depicts a lightbulb and, by clicking, will provide you with short essays that put the stories of Andrew, Deborah, Eve, Jack, and London into historical context.

Black Founders Big Ideas

Explore these short framing essays to discover the lives and legacies of free Black Philadelphian, Revolutionary War privateer, successful businesman, and stalwart abolitionist James Forten and his family.
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A father holds his child as they look at the Forten family tree in the Museum's Black Founders exhibit.

Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia

February 11 - November 26, 2023
Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia explored the story of James Forten and his descendants as they navigated the American Revolution and cross-racial relationships in Philadelphia to later become leaders in the abolition movement in the lead-up to the Civil War.
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