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Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia exhibit graphic featuring a portrait of James Forten.

When James Forten walked the streets of 1770s Philadelphia as a young man, he was surrounded by the sights and sounds of revolutionary transformation. He heard the words of the Declaration of Independence read aloud for the first time in 1776 before setting sail to fight for independence in 1781. Born a free man of African descent, Forten built upon his coming-of-age in a revolutionary city and his wartime experience to forge himself into a changemaker in Philadelphia and the young United States, becoming a successful businessman, philanthropist, and stalwart abolitionist.

Join us Feb. 11-12 for the opening weekend of our newest special exhibition Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia, open from Feb. 11 through Nov. 26, 2023. Throughout the exhibit in the Museum's first-floor Patriots Gallery, visitors are introduced to Forten and his descendants as they navigated the American Revolution and cross-racial relationships in Philadelphia to become leaders in the abolition movement in the lead-up to the Civil War and the women's suffrage movement. Using objects, documents, and immersive environments, Black Founders explores the Forten family’s roles in the Revolutionary War, business in Philadelphia, and abolition and voting rights from 1776 to 1876.

The unique journey and exceptional story of this family of Revolutionaries explores the legacy of the American Revolution, the history of the American experiment of liberty, equality, and self-government, and the ongoing work to improve the nation’s dedication to the principle that “all men are created equal.”

Exhibit Black Founders Sponsor Lockup With Media

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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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Silhouettes of Francis Johnson and his wife Helen  courtesy of The Met.
courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

The Music of Francis Johnson: A Soundtrack to Antebellum Black Philadelphia

Learn more about and listen to music written by Black composer and musician Francis Johnson, whose music was popular in the Revolutionary and Antebellum eras.
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A family views the Forten family tree and family bible in the Museum's Black Founders exhibit.
 
Black Founders

Forten Family Heirlooms on Loan from Descendants in Black Founders Exhibit

Learn more about the rare surviving objects on loan from Forten family descendants that are on display in our special exhibition, Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia.
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