Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900

By Philip S. Foner; Robert James Branham | Go to book overview

setting more or less pleasant. I will only now add, that the report of the Conventional Board will be submitted at your call; and my earnest hope is that you may have a peaceful, pleasant sitting.■


26 PUT ON THE ARMOUR OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

James Forten Jr.

James Forten, Jr. ( 1817-?), was the son of Charlotte and James E. Forten, prominent Philadelphia abolitionists. James Forten, Sr., served in the Revolutionary War and helped found several of the first African American organizations in Philadelphia, including the Free African Society ( 1787) and the African Masonic Lodge ( 1797). He was an ardent Garrisonian and among the organizers of the American Anti- Slavery Society in 1833. The Fortens were one of the most affluent and influential of Philadelphia's black families and their home was regularly visited by African dignitaries, abolitionist leaders, and fugitive slaves.

Raised in this extraordinary family, James Forten, Jr., became politically active at an early age. While still a teenager, he wrote for the Liberator and was an active member of the Young Men's Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia and of the American Moral Reform Society. At the age of nineteen, on the evening of April 14, 1836, he presented the following address to the Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia. In the introductory and concluding sections of the speech reprinted here, Forten discusses the relationships between male and female abolitionists and the role of women in the movement. When confronted with the dedicated political work of women, he argues, man "feels an innate disposition to check the modest ardour of her zeal and ambition, and revolts at the idea of her managing the reigns of improvement." Forten predicts that women's participation in the abolitionist movement will revolutionize public opinion regarding the political abilities and rights of women. At the same time, his speech also surveys the difficulties faced by abolitionist orators: public scorn and the constant threat of violence.

The full text of the speech may be found in James Forten Jr., An Address Delivered Before the Ladies' Anti-Slavery Societyof Philadelphia, On the Evening of the 14th of April, 1836 ( Philadelphia, Pa., 1836), 3-16; the speech is reprinted in volume 3 of C. Peter Ripley, ed., The Black Abo­ pplitionist Papers

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