Join us throughout A Revolutionary Summer with exhibits, crafts, and activities for visitors of all ages. Plan Your Visit

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Meet James Forten

Our Meet James Forten performances, written by playwright Marissa Kennedy, explore the life and legacy of James Forten, a free Black Philadelphian, Revolutionary War privateer, successful businessman, and stalwart abolitionist. The performances are part of the Museum's African American Interpretive Program sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal. 

Actor Nathan Alford-Tate depicts a sailor in a blue coat holding a sailmaking fid in our Meet James Forten first-person theatrical performance.

Meet Young James Forten

Born a free person of African descent in Revolutionary-era Philadelphia, young James Forten found himself at the center of events that shaped America's founding. As a child, Forten heard the words of the Declaration of Independence read aloud and witnessed the mobilization of the Continental Army. right in his backyard. Meet a young Forten as he learns the sailmaking trade alongside his father and encounters people in his community who help him decide to serve as a privateer during the Revolutionary War. After a successful first tour as a privateer capturing British merchant ships, Forten is captured by the British and serves time on the prison ship, Jersey in 1781, anchored two miles off Brooklyn. 

The 20-minute performance of Meet Young James Forten stars Nathan Alford-Tate and is available to watch online.

Watch Online
Actor Steve Crum portrays an elder James Forten at age 72.

Meet Elder James Forten

Set in 1838, meet 72-year-old James Forten as he speaks with his friend Daniel Brewton about the nearby ruins of Pennsylvania Hall. The building, which he helped to finance as a meeting space for social reformers and abolitionists, was looted and set on fire by a mob of white men who did not view the work of abolitionists favorably. That same year, Forten, who witnessed a reading of the Declaration of Independence and served two tours as a privateer, lost the right vote when Pennsylvania disenfranchised all Black men.

The 20-minute performance of Meet Elder James Forten stars Steve Crum and is best enjoyed by guests ages 9 and up.

Watch Performances

Browse our selection of first-person performances available to view online from anywhere at any time. These performances are also periodically performed live at the Museum.

This image shows a black background with white text to the left reading Finding Freedom Deborah's Choice to the left with a photo of actress Taylor J. Mitchell on the right.

"Finding Freedom: Deborah’s Choice" Performance

Deborah's Choice is a first-person theatrical performance starring Taylor J. Mitchell that brings to life the decisions faced by 16-year-old Deborah, who was enslaved at Mount Vernon, as she decides whether to seek freedom or stay behind.
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"Meet Elizabeth Freeman" Performance

Watch the original first-person theatrical performance portraying the life and experiences of Elizabeth Freeman, a Massachusetts woman who sued for her freedom from enslavement and won, produced in conjunction with our special exhibit, When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, 1776-1807.

"Meet Elizabeth Freeman" stars Tiffany Bacon as Elizabeth Freeman and was written by Teresa Miller.

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"Meet Rebecca VanDike" Performance

Watch the original first-person theatrical performance portraying Rebecca VanDike, an early woman voter in New Jersey, produced in conjunction with our special exhibit, When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, 1776-1807.

"Meet Rebecca VanDike" stars D’Arcy Dersham as Rebecca VanDike and was written by Valerie Dunn.

Seth Reichgott as Richard St George

"Meet Richard St. George" Performance

Watch the original first-person theatrical performance portraying Irish soldier and artist Richard St. George, produced in conjunction with our special exhibit, Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier.

"Meet Richard St. George" stars Seth Reichgott as Richard St. George and was written by Chris Braak.

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"Meet Joseph Plumb Martin" Performance

Watch the original first-person theatrical performance portraying Continental Army soldier Joseph Plumb Martin. This was the Museum's first original theatrical piece and debuted in 2018.

"Meet Joseph Plumb Martin" stars Patrick Poole as Joseph Plumb Martin and was written by Ryan Schwartz.


Interested in More Living History?

Dive deeper into Revolutionary-era living history with interviews, cooking demos, and more.

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"Freedom on the Horizon" Performance

Actress and historical interpreter Nastassia Parker portrays Ona Judge, an enslaved woman who ran away from George and Martha Washington’s household in Philadelphia, in her 20-minute, one-woman theatrical piece, “Freedom on the Horizon.”

Blacksmith Aislinn Lewis
Fred Blystone 

Artisan Field Trip Interviews

In the 1700s, young people served seven-year apprenticeships to learn skilled trades. Just like today, people had specialized jobs. The Museum's Artisan Field Trips feature video interviews with living history artisans and makers as they demonstrate their Revolutionary-era crafts. 

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Living History at Home Cooking Demos

What were the Continental soldiers eating while on campaign during the Revolutionary War? The Museum's Living History at Home cooking demonstrations take you through making foods of the Revolutionary era.