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Brave Men as Ever Fought painting unveiling
"Brave Men as Ever Fought" by artist Don Troiani Courtesy of Don Troiani

"Brave men as ever fought."

Those were the words sailor, businessman, and abolitionist James Forten would later pen to describe the Black and Native American troops he witnessed marching past the Pennsylvania State House (now known as Independence Hall) in Philadelphia on Sept. 2, 1781. And that same scene was captured by renowned historical artist Don Troiani in a new painting commissioned by the Museum that was unveiled exactly 240 years later on Sept. 2, 2021 at the African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP).

The unveiling event included remarks from AAMP's Director of Curatorial Services Dejay B. Duckett, the Museum's Curator of Exhibitions Matthew Skic, and the National Park Service's Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail Administrator Johnny Carawan. Troiani himself was also in attendance at the unveiling as well as members of the First Rhode Island Regiment of Foot living history group, many of whom posed for the painting.

In the painting, young African American sailor Forten, later a stalwart in anti-slavery and abolitionist movements, looks on as Black and Native American troops in the ranks of the Continental Army’s Rhode Island Regiment kick up clouds of dust as they march on their way to Yorktown, Virginia, past crowds of Philadelphia residents lining Chestnut Street in front of the brick façade of the Pennsylvania State House. In February 1831, nearly 50 years after seeing men of color in the Continental Army march through Philadelphia on their way to Yorktown, a 64-year-old Forten penned a letter to his friend and fellow abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, reflecting on the moment that Troiani has depicted in the painting, writing, “I well remember that when the New England Regiment passed through this city on their way to attack the English Army under the command of Lord Cornwallis, there was several Companies of Coloured People, as brave Men as ever fought.”

The painting will be on display at AAMP through Oct. 3, 2021 before going on display in the Museum's upcoming special exhibition Liberty: Don Troiani’s Paintings of the Revolutionary War, which runs from Oct. 16, 2021 through Sept. 5, 2022. It was commissioned by the Museum of the American Revolution with funding provided by the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail of the National Park Service.

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Don Troiani's Victory or Death, Advance on Trenton 1776
Victory or Death, Advance on Trenton (Courtesy of Don Troiani) 

Liberty: Don Troiani’s Paintings of the Revolutionary War

October 16, 2021 - September 5, 2022
The Museum's upcoming special exhibition, Liberty: Don Troiani’s Paintings of the Revolutionary War, will immerse visitors in the dramatic and research-based works of nationally renowned historical artist Don Troiani to bring the compelling stories about the diverse people and complex events of the American Revolution to life.
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James Forten Discovery Cart
 

James Forten Discovery Cart

View replica objects from the time James Forten, a free Revolutionary War veteran, wealthy sailmaker and prominent Philadelphia abolitionist, spent as a teenager at sea to learn more about his life.
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From Slaves To Soldiers by Robert Geake
 

From Slaves to Soldiers

This excerpt from Robert Geake highlights the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, an integrated unit composed of African American, Native American and white soldiers
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