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Forten Family Bible Courtesy Of Atwood Kip Forten Jacobs

Groundbreaking Special Exhibition "Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia" Opens in February 2023

A groundbreaking new special exhibition, Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia, will bring together – for the first time in a major museum exhibition – more than 100 historical artifacts to tell the inspiring story of free Black Philadelphian James Forten and his family’s tireless pursuit of liberty and equality from the Revolutionary era through the Civil War and Reconstruction.
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Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia exhibit graphic featuring a portrait of James Forten.

Member Preview of Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia Special Exhibit

February 10, 2022 from 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Join us for the Members-only preview of our new exhibition Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia. Members will enjoy refreshments in our member lounge as well as timed access to the exhibition before it opens to the public.
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Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia exhibit graphic featuring a portrait of James Forten.

Opening Weekend of Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia Special Exhibit

February 11 & 12, 2023
Join the Museum for the opening weekend of our newest special exhibition Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia, which will introduce visitors to James 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.
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Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia exhibit graphic featuring a portrait of James Forten.

Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia

February 11 - November 26, 2023
In the upcoming 2023 special exhibition Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia, the Museum will introduce visitors to 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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When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story: Thomas Blue

Thomas Blue is one of at least four free Black men who voted in Montgomery Township in October 1801.
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When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story: Caesar Trent

Caesar Trent is one of at least four free Black men who voted in Montgomery Township in October 1801. He was a well-known resident of Princeton, New Jersey.
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When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story: Discovering America’s First Women Voters, 1800 - 1807

In 2018 the Museum of the American Revolution discovered polling records that document for the first time a generation of women voters in early New Jersey. To date, we have discovered 163 women voters on nine poll lists who cast ballots across the state from 1800 to 1807. These lists introduce new stories of the first women voters in the United States – stories of the forgotten women who pioneered the vote.


The poll lists suggest women’s political significance and participation in local, state, and federal elections in early New Jersey. This first in-depth analysis of these nine poll lists from New Jersey refutes any presumption that women in the Early Republic were only passive witnesses and bystanders of the political processes that shaped the new nation.


Not only has the Museum discovered evidence of women voters in early New Jersey, we have also identified the names of at least four free Black male voters on one of the poll lists. While we have yet to confirm the identity of any free Black women voters, the presence of both women and free Black voters on these poll lists reveals the inclusive nature of the electoral system in New Jersey in the first few decades following American independence.

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When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story: PLG - Montgomery Township, Somerset County, New Jersey, October 1801

Montgomery Township, Somerset County, New Jersey, October 1801


This poll list is for an 1801 state election held at the Rocky Hill Inn in Montgomery Township, Somerset County, New Jersey. The election determined annual officeholders for the New Jersey State Assembly and Legislative Council, and for the Somerset County Sheriff and Coroner. The poll list includes the names of 343 total voters. At least 46 of the voters are women (about 14 percent of the voters on the list). It also includes the names of at least four free Black male voters. One voter is identified as Black on the poll list with the word “negro” next to his name.


There are a number of voters on this list who have yet to be identified. As the Museum of the American Revolution continues its research, please contact us if you know more about any of the voters. Share your research with us.

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Finding Freedom: Andrew - United States Census, 1850

Andrew Ferguson moved to Indiana (which became a state in 1816) after the Revolutionary War. The 1850 United States Census, shown here, documents Ferguson’s residence in Monroe County. Ferguson and his wife Jane (also known as Jenny; married in 1844) are listed near the bottom of the page. “B” in the column to the right of their age and gender stands for Black, their race. Andrew Ferguson is listed as being 95 years old (or born in about 1755), but he had previously claimed that he was born in about 1765. 

National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC/Ancestry.com

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Finding Freedom: Andrew - “Soldiers in Uniform”

This French officer’s depiction of American soldiers at the Siege of Yorktown shows a soldier of African descent from the Rhode Island Regiment of the Continental Army. During the Revolutionary War, Black and White soldiers fought alongside one another on both sides of the conflict. Historians estimate that between 4,000 and 8,000 men of African descent served in the Continental Army. In 1778, Rhode Island offered freedom to enslaved men in exchange for service. It created a regiment with privates of African and Native American ancestry, officered by White men. In 1781, the Rhode Island line was collapsed from two regiments into one integrated unit with segregated companies.

Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library

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