Robert Purvis Sr.

Robert and Joseph's father, Robert Sr. was the son of William Purvis and Harriett Judah.  As a child, Purvis had a secret room in his home to hide runaway slaves. Purvis was a highly active abolitionist and was dubbed the "President of the Underground Railroad" following his death in 1898. Purvis also founded the American Anti-Slavery Society and served as the president of the Penssylvania Anti-Slavery Society from 1845-1850. On one of his abolitionist trips, he met James Forten, the father of Harriett Davy Forten, who would eventually become Purvis' wife. Purvis would marry into the Forten family who were one of the most wealthy African-American families in the country at the time. After marrying into the family, he became like a son to James Forten Sr. and was in line to take control over some of the family business. Eventually, after James Forten Sr's. death, the business started to struggle financially. Due to this, Robert Purvis had to sue James Forten Jr. and more of his wife's family as he was owed money by them. He eventually won the suit and was given the money that was owed to them while the Forten's struggled more financially as they also had to pay legal fees. Following the passing of his wife, Harriett, Robert remarried to Tacie Townsend, who was a former student of New York Central College and even wrote a poem about Robert's son, Joseph, following his death in 1851. eventually, Robert passed away in 1898, but his legacy lived on forever.

Winch, Julie. A Gentlemen of Color: The Life of James Forten. Oxford University Press, 2003. Page 249, 254-257.

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