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A museum curator places a photograph of Charlotte Vandine Forten in its case for display in Black Founders.

Museum Members are invited to an exclusive Saturday afternoon lunch and learn with buffet lunch, refreshments, and two special talks inspired by Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia, presenting topics from the maritime world of James Forten’s military service on a privateer ship to archival discoveries related to preserving Charlotte Vandine Forten’s only surviving photograph, on loan to the Museum from the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University.

Meet author Eric Jay Dolin and archivist Lela J. Sewell-Williams in conversation with recent Howard University graduate Rebecca Shipman during special presentations with Q&As hosted by Dr. Tyler Putman, the Museum’s Senior Manager of Gallery Interpretation. Onsite tickets include buffet lunch available at 12:15 p.m. and a tea and coffee break with refreshments available at 1:45 p.m. The program will be followed by a Rebels at Sea book signing with Eric Jay Dolin at 3 p.m. Members who register for online Zoom Webinar or onsite tickets will receive first access to the event recording following the program.

Please contact Emily Grenier at [email protected] with questions about becoming a Museum Member to attend this event.

Program Schedule

12:15 p.m. - Lunch Buffet Available

12:30 p.m. - Part I: Black Founders & the War at Sea
Presentation by Eric Jay Dolin
Presenting the maritime world of James Forten with tales of daring maneuvers at sea from his latest book, Rebels at Sea: Privateering in the American Revolution, Eric Jay Dolin will discuss how privateers, private vessels ranging from 20-foot whaleboats to 40-cannon men-of-war, were critical to the outcome of the Revolutionary War and reveal the entrepreneurial ethos of the new United States.

1:45 p.m. - Tea & Coffee Break with Refreshments

2 p.m. - Part II: Black Founders Women & the Archives: Culture Keepers from Generation to Generation
Presentation & Conversation with Lela J. Sewell-Williams & Rebecca Shipman
Highlighting photographs and artifacts related to Charlotte Vandine Forten and her contemporaries, Lela J. Sewell-Williams and Rebecca Shipman from the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University will reflect on preserving the legacies of African American women in the archives, as they implement preservation techniques as tools of accountability that protect these historical narratives for future generations to learn from visual and material culture.

3 p.m. - Conclusion & Book Signing with Eric Jay Dolin

About Eric Jay Dolin

Headshot of author Eric Jay Dolan along a coastline

Eric Jay Dolin is the author of fifteen books, including Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America, which was chosen as one of the best nonfiction books of 2007 by the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe, and also won the 2007 John Lyman Award for U.S. Maritime History. His most recent book before Rebels at Sea is A Furious Sky: The Five-Hundred-Year History of America’s Hurricanes, which was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, and was chosen as one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, Booklist, Library Journal, and the editors at Amazon. It was also selected as a "Must-Read" book by the Massachusetts Center for the Book for 2020. Rebels at Sea, the book he will talk at this event, was awarded the Fraunces Tavern Museum Book Award for 2023, and has also been selected as a “Must-Read” book for 2023. A graduate of Brown, Yale, and MIT, where he received his Ph.D. in environmental policy, Dolin lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts, with his family. For more information, please see

About Lela J. Sewell-Williams

Headshot of Howard University curator Lela J Sewell Williams

Lela J. Sewell-Williams, Curator of the Manuscript Division within Moorland-Spingarn Research Center (MSRC) at Howard University, has a vested interest in the preservation of the history and culture of those of African descent having served within the archives field for over 25 years. Previous to her recent return to Moorland-Spingarn, having held the role of Assistant Curator of Manuscripts, 2001-2005, she served as the Manager of the Columbia Maryland Archives. During her career, Sewell Williams has experienced various privileges including becoming the first University Archivist at her alma mater South Carolina State University, initiating the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s Hip-Hop Archive Project and Moorland-Spingarn’s Black Regional Dance Archives, and founding an archival consulting firm, Preserve Your Story. However, one privilege she holds very dear is the 2011 board appointment to serve as the International Association of Blacks in Dance archivist, an honor she still maintains.

About Rebecca Shipman

Headshot of Howard University grad student Rebecca Shipman

Rebecca Shipman graduated from Howard University with a BFA in Art History in 2023. In the past, Shipman has worked with GANGGANG, a non-profit focusing on the visibility of Black artists in the Midwest and equity in the arts at large. For the past two years, Shipman has worked at Moorland-Spingarn Research Center in the museum and in the manuscripts departments. Shipman is the 2022-23 Terra Curatorial Fellow at the Phillips Collection where she conducts research on underrepresented artists in American Modernism. Shipman will be continuing her education working toward an MLIS at Syracuse University in the fall. 

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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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Image 090420 Museum Galleries Photo Credit Jeff Fusco 2
Jeff Fusco 

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A Museum educator, in Revolutionary military costume, shows three adolescents how to use a cannon on the Privateer Ship in the galleries.

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