James Vogelsang Forten

James Vogelsang Forten comes from a very wealthy abolitionist family. Whether it be his grandfather, James Forten Sr., his father, James Forten Jr., or his aunt, Harriett Davy Forten, someone in his family worked towards the advancement of African Americans.

James Vogelsang Forten attended New York Central College along with his cousins, Robert and Joseph Purvis, who also come from a successful family. On July 4, 1850 NYCC held their summer graduation exercises where Lucretia Motts (renowned abolitionist and women’s rights activist) gave her speech. Motts traveled with her friend Hariett Forten Purvis (mother of Robert and Joseph Purvis) to McGrawville for this speech. As far as the records go, Forten had attended New York Central College for one to two years. There weren’t any college catalogs available for the academic years of 1849-1850, nor 1850-1851. Forten appeared in a federal census taken in August of 1850, as a student living in McGrawville just underneath Professor Charles Reason. James Forten had only attended the college for only one year and according to the 1850 census Forten was only 12 years old, so he might have attended New York Central College for preparatory school. 

This exhibit will take a look at the life of James Vogelsang Forten and his family and their role in being abolitionists. Also, this exhibit will look into the tragic family drama and scandals that had affected James Forten during his life. 

The Sons and Daughters of Freedom