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Book cover of A Gentleman of Color book alongside headshots of Julie Winch and Kip Forten Jacobs.
Winch's magnificent biography...sets the record straight, restoring Forten to the position he achieved for himself in life: a 'gentleman of color' and an American patriot in the front rank of the fight for freedom.
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Author and historian Dr. Julie Winch will join the Museum for a special presentation reflecting on her groundbreaking biography, A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten, more than 20 years after it was first published. Joining Winch onstage will be Atwood “Kip” Forten Jacobs, the great-great-great-great grandson of James Forten, who will reflect on how discovering her book — and his own family heritage — changed his life. Winch and Jacobs also will discuss their involvement in the Museum’s special exhibition Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia, including the Forten family Bible, an heirloom that has been in the family for six generations, that Jacobs loaned to the Museum for display in the exhibit.

A Gentleman of Color, written by Winch in 2002, was the first full-length biography of James Forten, a hero of African American history and one of the most remarkable men in 19th-century America. Born into a free Black family in 1766, Forten served as a privateer during the Revolutionary War as a teenager. By 1810, he had earned the distinction of being the leading sailmaker in Philadelphia. Forten emerged as a leader in Philadelphia's Black community and was active in a wide range of reform activities. He and his large family played integral roles in abolition and women’s suffrage movements.

The hybrid program will be held in the Museum’s Liberty Hall and will be broadcast live via Zoom. Following the presentation, Museum President & CEO Dr. R. Scott Stephenson will join the conversation to facilitate a live Q&A with the onsite and online audiences. 

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for onsite guests to enjoy Black Founders access from 5:30-6:15 p.m., view the Forten family Bible, purchase refreshments at a cash bar, and have opportunities to purchase signed copies of the featured book. Revolution Society members are invited to join an exclusive reception with the speakers at 5:30 p.m.

About Julie Winch

Author and historian Julie Winch's Headshot photo.

Julie Winch (Emerita Professor of History) taught at the University of Massachusetts-Boston for 36 years until her retirement in 2021. She received a B.A. in History from Cambridge University, and graduate degrees from London University and Bryn Mawr College. Originally from the U.K., she has lived in the United States since 1977. She has published six books, including A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten (2002), which won the American Historical Association’s Wesley Logan Prize, and Between Slavery and Freedom: Free People of Color in America from Settlement to the Civil War (2014), which was named a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title.

About Atwood "Kip" Forten Jacobs

Book cover of A Gentleman of Color book alongside headshots of Julie Winch and Kip Forten Jacobs.

Atwood "Kip" Forten Jacobs is the great-great-great-great-grandson of James and Charlotte Vandine Forten. He is the owner of the family's Bible, which has records of the birth and death dates of Forten family members dating back to the 19th century. The Bible is on loan to the Museum for the 2023 special exhibition, Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia. Jacobs was born in West Philadelphia and now lives in Illinois.

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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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A Gentleman of Color by Julie Winch

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Read an excerpt from Julie Winch's groundbreaking book, A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten.
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