James Vogelsang Forten's Life

There is not much on James Vogelsang Forten's life after he left New York Central College. Perhaps given his parents’ misfortunes, he did not care much for taking on the family fortune, or that wealth no longer existed. 

At the age of 20, James enlisted in the Navy in Philadelphia in 1863 at the age of 25 and his occupation was listed as a farmer. Many African American young men volunteered for the war against slavery but black service was restrained during the beginning of the war.

What is known is that he married at the age of 31 to Annie C. Forten, who was born in 1844 and born in New Jersey. They had 12 children together. The couple married and settled down in Camden, New Jersey according to a census in 1870. This census listed her as “mulatto.” The 1880 census lists keeping house as her occupation, and that her parents were born in Maryland. In the area they lived in they were surrounded by mostly other “colored” families, according to the 1885 census. Sadly, only five of his children survived him. Forten later disappeared from family records and wound up living in poverty. Forten tried filing for a pension, but he was not seen as disabled and because of that, his request was denied. Forten eventually died on May 27, 1907 at the age of 73.

The Sons and Daughters of Freedom