Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P. O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
By Cindy Vallar
Philadelphia, in the latter half of the eighteenth century, was a bustling port with several dozen shipyards. Shipping had been a staple of the city since its founding in 1685. Within three years the wharfs were home to shipwrights, ropemakers, sailmakers, and blockmakers. William Penn, the colony’s founder, said “some vessels have been here built, and many boats; and by that means (we have) a ready convenience for the passage of people and goods.” (Chandler, 6) At the time the American Revolution began, nearly 900 ships had been built there. Another 160 were built between 1781 and 1787.
On Willings’ Wharf stood a warehouse belonging to Thomas Willing and Company. Robert Bridges rented the building’s upper floor for his sail loft, where he and his employees designed, made, and repaired sails for the various ships that put in at Philadelphia. One of his workers was a man named Thomas Forten. Sometimes, his son accompanied him to work.
Young lads, like James Forten, swept the floor so the canvas – used to make sails, awnings, and tents – didn’t become dirty, snagged, or torn. They picked through discarded shakings (leftover canvas for patching sails and unraveled cordage for the oakum used to caulk ships). Boys also stirred an iron kettle containing turpentine, tallow, and beeswax. Once cooled, they cut this blended wax into small blocks that apprentices and journeymen held to make the thread easier to pull through the canvas. Waxed thread also waterproofed the stitching, which meant the sails lasted longer. The youngsters collected wax chips from the workbenches and floor then dumped these into the kettle for reuse. Older boys held the canvas while Bridges or his foreman cut it.
Born on 2 September 1766, James lived with his parents (Thomas and Margaret) and his older sister (Abigail) on Third Street near Walnut Street in Dock Ward, although Fortens had lived in America since the time of William Penn. Thomas could read and write, and he and his wife raised their children in the Anglican faith. When James was seven years old, his father died after an illness. His mother succumbed in 1806 at the age of 84.
At the Friends’ African School James learned to read, write, and cipher (arithmetic). He was inquisitive and full of energy, but sometime in 1775, he left school and went to work. Without his father’s income, his mother and sister needed the money James earned cleaning local shops to sustain the family.
Events witnessed in childhood often have a profound impact in shaping a person’s future life. This was no less true for James. Three years before his birth, a peace treaty ended the Seven Years’ War in Europe (known as the French and Indian War in America). American colonists, who defended themselves during this struggle, amassed significant debts that needed to be paid. Great Britain had an even greater deficit, so George Grenville, Lord of the Treasury, decided the colonists should also help with these debts. Beginning with the Sugar Act of 1764, Parliament passed a series of taxes to ensure they paid their fair share. The Stamp Act, passed in 1765, levied a tax “upon every paper, commonly called a pamphlet, and upon every newspaper.” (Copeland, 193) Outraged printers convinced Americans that the government was attacking them and protest groups emerged to fight it. “No taxation without representation” became their rallying cry, and that lack of representation became one reason the thirteen colonies convened a Continental Congress and declared America’s independence. That congress met in James’ hometown, and the war became a reality for him when the British Army occupied Philadelphia. Although his “young heart [was] fired with the enthusiasm…of the patriots and revolutionaries,” James wasn’t old enough to go to war. (Winch, Gentleman, 38) He had to wait until 1781 to help fight for independence.
When the colonies opted to break from British rule, America had only a few naval vessels to go up against the greatest naval fleet in the world. Privateers became instrumental in waging war against the enemy. At the time of Bunker Hill, the Continental Army had only nine rounds per man, but by 1777 American privateers supplied over 2,000,000 pounds of captured gunpowder and saltpeter for George Washington’s troops. There were almost as many men aboard the 1,697 privateers as were in the Continental Army. If a cruise was successful, each man might earn $1,000, whereas a shipyard worker at Wharton and Humphreys in 1775 earned only nine shillings in a single month.1 During the War of Independence, American privateers captured 2,283 enemy vessels, whereas the Continental Navy took only 196. The Royal Navy seized slightly more than 1,300 American privateers.
One American privateer was the Royal Louis, a 450-ton vessel that acquired her letter of marque on 23 July 1781. Her captain was Stephen Decatur, the father of the future American naval hero of the same name. Decatur’s father, a lieutenant in the French Navy, moved to America to escape a yellow fever epidemic in the West Indies. Stephen was born in 1751 and was master of a Philadelphia sloop by his twenty-second birthday. In 1779, as captain of the privateer Comet, he took four prizes. The following year he was captain of the brig Fair American, which captured the brig Gloucester, the packet Mercury, and two schooners, the Nancy and the Arbuthnot. The brig was valued at £1,596,954 and the packet at more than £451,535.2 Decatur’s success as a privateer guaranteed he had no problem finding men to serve aboard the Royal Louis.
James pleaded with his mother to let him join Decatur’s crew. Eventually she agreed, and James served as a “boy” because he wasn’t yet fifteen. He would earn half a share of any prize taken. Out of the 200 members of the crew, eighteen were black. James was one of the few who signed his name, rather than making his mark, to the articles. Since he wasn’t a sailor, he did whatever tasks were assigned him under a more experienced hand’s supervision. During battle, he fetched powder and shot for the gun crews.
At this time the British held the ports of New York and Charleston. The waters between these two cities were the privateers’ hunting grounds. Decatur teamed with another privateer, the Holker, to capture four prizes. Later, with the help of another privateer, the Royal Louis took a sloop named Nancy. Then they happened upon the Active, a British sloop of war. She carried important dispatches from Admiral Hood about a fleet of ships that would soon arrive in New York. Although she was armed with only fourteen six pounders, compared to the twenty-two nine pounders aboard the American vessel, her men fought fiercely.
James signed on for a second cruise aboard the Royal Louis. This cruise was neither long nor prosperous. One day after leaving Delaware Bay, the privateer encountered HMS Amphion. This fifth rate warship of 679 tons had been launched from the Chatham Dockyards on 25 December 1780. She carried thirty-two guns, most of which were twelve pounders. She sailed in consort with the thirty-six gun Nymphe.[A]fter a severe fight, sustaining great loss on both sides, and leaving every man wounded on board the Louis but himself [James], they succeeded in capturing her, and brought her into port amid the loud huzzas and acclamations of the crowd that assembled upon the occasion. (Winch, Gentleman, 39)
Early on 8 October 1781 after a heavy gale, Nymphe’s lookout spotted a sail. Fifteen minutes later two more ships were sighted. Captain John Ford decided to pursue the smaller vessels, while Amphion’s Captain, John Bazely, went after the Royal Louis. Decatur attempted to outrun the warship, but Amphion carried more sail and soon closed the distance. William Morris, Jr., the British master, wrote:The chase had lasted seven hours, and now the men of the Royal Louis became prisoners of war. James Forten knew what awaited him, for “rarely…were prisoners of his complexion exchanged; they were sent to the West Indies, and there doomed to a life of slavery.” (Winch, Gentleman, 43)Gain on her very fast half past eleven fir’d a Shat at the Chace and hoisted French Colours. She hoisted American Colours and fir’d her Stern Chace at us…. Fir’d several Shot at the Chace at one she brot too near us. hoisted English Colours upon which She Struck. (McManemin, 307-8)
Fate, however, had a different plan in mind. Aboard HMS Amphion were Captain Bazely’s two sons. John Jr. was a fourteen-year-old midshipman who had been to sea before, but Henry, aged twelve, had never sailed before and had little to occupy his time. He needed a companion. Since his father couldn’t spare any of his men for the task, he chose Forten because of his “honest and open countenance.” (Winch, Gentleman, 44)
The boys often played marbles. James was a master of the game and often succeeded in displacing all the marbles. When Henry bragged about this, his father asked James if he could repeat the feat. “[A]ssuring the Captain that nothing was easier…the marbles were again placed in the ring, and in rapid succession he redeemed his word.” (Winch, Gentleman, 44) After that James found himself with greater freedom and rewards than a prisoner of war usually experienced.
Since the British still held New York, HMS Amphion sailed there to deposit her prisoners and take on supplies. Bazely offered James the chance to go to England with his son, get a good education, and experience freedom and equality. James replied, “I have been taken prisoner for the liberties of my country, and never will prove a traitor to her interest.” (Winch, Gentleman, 46) Bazely accepted James’ decision, but “as a token of his regard and friendship,” gave James a letter to deliver to the prison commander. It asked “that [James] should not be forgotten on the list of exchanges.” (Winch, Gentleman, 46) So on 23 October, James Forten became prisoner number 4102 aboard the Jersey, a British prison hulk moored in the East River.
In a prior life, HMS Jersey was a fourth-rate ship of the line. When she left the Plymouth Dockyards in 1736, she carried a complement of 400 men and sixty guns. From 1771 to 1780, she served as a hospital ship, after which she was converted into a floating prison.The first thing one noticed about a prison hulk was the stench. Captain Thomas Dring, who became a prisoner on the Jersey in 1782, described it as “far more foul and loathsome than any thing which I had ever met with on board that ship, and produced a sensation of nausea far beyond my powers of description.” (Greene, 12) James never forgot that smell. Later in life, he recognized the stench when he went to measure a ship for new sails. Venting his outrage, he threatened to bring charges against the shipowner for illegally importing slaves.She was stripped of her rudder, sails, and rigging, and virtually dismasted. Her portholes were sealed shut and her gunports had gratings put over them. The British left the flagstaff, bowsprit, and a spar amidships as a derrick to hoist supplies on board. (Winch, Gentleman, 46)
Once aboard the Jersey, James was searched for weapons and his name was entered on the list of prisoners to exchange.3 Then he came face to face with the other prisoners. Dring described that experience thusly:Some of James’ mates from the Royal Louis had arrived before him, so he joined one of their messes.4 He also learned what life was like as a prisoner. Their quarters had no heat or light, except for what little sunlight might penetrate the lower deck where they slept. There was no privacy and little fresh air. Each morning the prisoners were permitted topside. They spent daylight hours on the spar deck5 where an awning provided some protection from the weather. Once the sun set, they were locked below “amid the noise, the vermin, and the stench of close-packed bodies.” (Winch, Gentleman, 48)Men, who, shrunken and decayed as they stood around him, had been, but a short time before, as strong, as healthful and as vigorous as himself. Men, who had breathed the pure breezes of the ocean, or danced lightly in the flower-scented air of the meadow and the hill; and had from thence been hurried into the pent-up air of a crowded prison-ship, pregnant with putrid fever, foul with deadly contagion; here to linger out the tedious and weary day, the disturbed and anxious night; to count over the days and weeks and months of a wearying and degrading captivity, unvaried but by new scenes of painful suffering, and new inflictions of remorseless cruelty: their brightest hope and their daily prayer, that death would not long delay to release them from their torments. (Greene, 18)
Anyone who wished to escape sitting around all day volunteered for work detail: swabbing the upper deck and gangway, unloading supplies, bringing the sick topside, locating the dead, emptying the “necessary” tubs, collecting freshwater from shore. Those prisoners who did these tasks received extra food, half a pint of rum, and spent more time in the fresh air.
Some prisoners tried to escape, but these attempts often ended in failure. When James learned that a naval officer was to be exchanged, he asked to stow away in the man’s sea chest. At the last moment, however, James let Daniel Brewton, two years his junior, go in his place. He even “assisted in taking down ‘the chest of old clothes’…from the sides of the prison ship.” (Winch, Gentleman, 49)
When James surrendered his chance for freedom, he understood his chances of survival were slim. He never had enough good food to eat and no warm clothing. If he fell sick, there was little any captured ships’ surgeons could do for him. Fleas, ticks, and lice infested the ship. Conditions were ripe for outbreaks of smallpox, dysentery, and pneumonia. Philip Freneau, a poet, was imprisoned on a prison hulk after the British captured the vessel he sailed on in 1780. He wrote of the experience:Some 11,000 men died during their imprisonment on the Jersey.Hail dark abode! what can with thee compare –
Heat, sickness, famine, death and stagnant air –
Pandora’s box, from whence all mischief flew,
Here real found, torments mankind anew! –
Swift from the guarded decks we rush’d along,
And vainly sought repose, so vast our throng;
Four hundred wretches here, denied all light,
In crowded mansions pass the infernal night,
Some for a bed their tattered vestments join,
And some on chests, and some on floors recline;
Shut from the blessings of the evening air
Pensive we lay with mingled corpses there,
Meagre and wan, and scorch’d with heat, below.
We look’d like ghosts, ere death had made us so. (Greene, vii)
Although the British had surrendered at Yorktown, negotiations for the exchange of prisoners of war took forever. The first to be freed were those who served in the Continental Army or Navy. Privateers were among the last to be released. Since Britain saw the Americans as rebels, they equated privateers with pirates. Although they didn’t execute any privateers, they didn’t know how to treat them as prisoners, either.6 General Washington, on the other hand, refused to exchange privateers for British army personnel because such exchanges benefited England more than America. Plus, he had few British prisoners of war to be exchanged. Many British sailors opted to switch sides when caught.
Seven months after coming aboard the Jersey, James Forten was released.7 He walked from New York to Trenton, New Jersey in his bare feet. There someone gave him shoes and something to eat. He “reached home in a wretchedly bad condition, having, among other evidences of great hardship endured, his hair nearly entirely worn from his head.” (Winch, Gentleman, 51)
Under his mother’s care, he soon recovered and decided to go to sea again. He served aboard the Commerce, a merchant ship of 250 tons, beginning in April 1784. A few months before his eighteenth birthday, they arrived in London, where James stayed until the following year. On his return to Philadelphia, he became an apprentice in Robert Bridges’ sail loft, the same business where James’ father had worked. Since he already had rudimentary sewing skills, Bridges took James under his wing. Within a year (at the age of twenty) he became foreman. His boss let it be known that any white employee who didn’t like taking orders from a black man was welcome to look elsewhere for work. For thirteen years, James learned the ins and outs of sailmaking and became acquainted with captains and other businessmen. One reason he succeeded in this trade was because he knew firsthand a ship’s sails and how they worked.
Charles Mallory Sail Loft, Mystic Seaport
Sail lofts were located on the upper floor of a warehouse, which had plenty of floor space, because there were no support posts to impede the laying out of canvas. Since sails were huge and the loft’s stairs narrow, furled canvas was hoisted in and out through an opening in a wall using block and tackle. The work day started early, and James and his co-workers donned canvas outfits – “a blouse…pulled over the head and trousers that tied at the sides” – to protect the sail fabric from dirt. (Winch, Gentleman, 20)
James was proficient in using all the specialized tools of his trade. The needles used were larger and triangular compared to those used to sew garments. There wasn’t just one type of needle, but many, including “large marline, small marine, double bolt-rope, large bolt-rope, small bolt-rope, store, old word, tabling and flat-seam.” (Winch, Gentleman, 21) A sailmaker kept his instruments sharpened and greased with lard. He cleaned them with polished rouge and stored them in a leather, canvas, or wooden case. He also learned to use a palm, “a strip of leather shaped to encircle the hand, leaving the fingers free. There was a hole for the thumb and a metal disc or ‘eye’ at the heel of the hand.” (Winch, Gentleman, 21)
A sailmaker sat on wooden benches seven or eight feet in length. At one end was a sail or bench hook where he attached his canvas. This allowed him to pull the cloth taut across his knees. Slots in the bench held fids8 to form fittings for the sails and to punch holes in the canvas for those fittings. His other tools included marline-spikes,9 prickers, stabbers, awls, and mallets. Apprentices had to learn the names and uses of all the tools. To become journeymen, they also mastered the various kinds of stitches used, as well as the types of canvas and cordage, and the names of every sail and its parts.
Bridges taught James how to identify quality materials from poorly made ones. Since many captains supplied the canvas for their vessels’ sails, the sailmaker had to know when to refuse the material. Poor quality sails might result in the loss of the ship or ruin a sailmaker’s reputation. James learned the various grades of canvas and which countries supplied the best products.10 To test the quality of material, James used a fid to see how easily the threads broke. He might take samples of the same grade from two different manufacturers and tie weights to them to see which gave first. If a captain asked him to recut a sail, James needed to know when making a new sail was the better choice.
Once he learned how to sew canvas panels together, he acquired the knowledge and skill to measure for different sails. Having been a sailor, James could climb the rigging and take his own measurements, rather than relying on a sailor to do it. That way James made sure his figures were precise. He became adept at using drafting tools to design his sails and learned how to lay out the twenty-four-inch bolts of canvas, cut them with a knife, and mark the panels to be sewn together.11
Sail from one of the vessels at Mystic Seaport
Robert Bridges operated one of Philadelphia’s most successful sailmaking businesses, so the loft had a steady stream of work. Such activity provided James with plenty of opportunities to add to his knowledge and become an expert at what he did, as well as to become acquainted with sea captains and suppliers who visited the shop. While the making of sails was the primary activity, James also learned to make awnings, tents, and other canvas items clients might need.
In 1792 Bridges purchased a two-story, brick house at 50 Shippen Street for James with the understanding that James would pay him back. James’ mother, sister, brother-in-law, and their children moved in with him. Six years later, Bridges retired and James took over the business. By 1805 he had twenty-five apprentices, most of them white, in addition to his full-time employees.
On the evening of 10 November 1803, James married Martha Beatte at African Episcopal Church of Saint Thomas. She died the following year, and James never again mentioned her. He married again on 10 December 1805. Charlotte Vandine was twenty years old with an ancestry of Native American, African, and European. She would live until a few days before her hundredth birthday.
In 1806 James purchased a three-story, brick house at Third and Lombard Streets. Charlotte gave birth to all nine of their children here. James loved and protected them, and made certain each received a good education. Margaretta, the first born, became an artist and teacher. She died of pneumonia in 1875. Little Charlotte died of “Dropsy in [the] Brain”12 at the age of five. Harriet Davy, an abolitionist who believed in integration of the races, succumbed from consumption the same year as Margaretta. James Junior.13 spoke against slavery, was an artist, and served in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. Robert Bridges Forten spent part of his life in England, although he returned to fight in the army during the Civil War. He died of typhoid in 1864. Sarah Louise became a poet and died the same year as her mother, 1884. Mary Isabella, an invalid for most of her life, died of consumption at the age of twenty-seven. Thomas Willing Francis served as a U.S. Marshal for awhile then farmed until his death in 1897. During his lifetime, the youngest son, William, fought for civil rights, became a politician, and made sails. He died in 1909.
By the 1820s, James was one of the most influential black men in the country. He was six feet tall and witty. Liberty for all people was extremely important to him, and he fought against slavery and for equal rights most of his adult life. In 1817 he wrote:Although he constantly struggled with the fact that a black man wasn’t a full citizen, he objected to the use of violence as a means of achieving full rights. He cared little about a man’s skin color. One writer for the Anti-Slavery Record wrote in 1834:...neither riches nor education could put [black Americans] on a level with whites. [In fact,] the more wealthy and better educated they became, the more wretched they were made. For [African Americans] felt their indignation more acutely. (Newman, 224)In 1837 Sarah Louise Forten told Angelina Grimké, an abolitionist:[H]is workmen, twenty or thirty in number, were industriously at work…. All was order and harmony…. My friend took great delight in pointing out to me various improvements that he had introduced…and spoke very kindly of his workmen. Here was one who had been in his employ twenty years, who owned not a brick when he came, but now was the possessor of a good brick house; here was another who had been rescued from ruin. There were white men, but no so all. As far as I can recollect, about one-half of them were colored. My friend remarked to me that both colors had thus been employed together for more…than 20 years, and always with the same peace and harmony which I then saw. “Here,” said he, “you see what may be done and ought to be done in our country at large.” (Winch, Gentleman, 84-5)In his seventy-fifth year, James fell ill. He died on 4 March 1841 at nine o’clock in the morning. His estate was valued at $67,108.14 He was an honest man who was highly respected by those who knew him. One merchant, Abraham Ritter, once said of him:…white and colored men have worked with [her father] from his first commencement in business. One man (a white) has been with him nearly thirty seven years; very few of his hired men have been foreigners; nearly all are natives of this country; the greatest harmony and good feeling exists between them; he has usually 10 or twenty journeymen, one half of whom are white; but I am not aware of any white sailmaker who employs colored men; I think it should be reciprocal – do not you? (Winch, Gentleman, 85)J. Miller McKim, one of James’ friends, described the funeral.Mr. Forten was a gentleman by nature, easy in manner, and affable in intercourse; popular as a man of trade or gentleman of the pave, and well received by the gentlemen of lighter shade. He was very genteel in appearance, good figure, prominent features, and upon the whole rather handsome than otherwise. (Winch, Gentleman, 104)William Douglas delivered the eulogy.The vast concourse of people, of all classes and complexions, numbering from three to five thousand, that followed his remains to the grave, bore testimony to the estimation in which he was universally held. Our wealthiest and most influential citizens joined in the procession; and complexional distinctions and prejudices seemed…forgotten, in the desire to pay the last tribute of respect to the memory of departed worth. (Winch, Gentleman, 328)William Lloyd Garrison, an ardent abolitionist, was unable to attend his friend’s funeral, but he wrote, “He was a man of rare qualities, and worthy to be held in veneration to the end of time. He was remarkable for his virtues, his self respect, his catholic temper, his Christian urbanity. An example like his is of inestimable value…in the mighty struggle now taking place between liberty and slavery – reason and prejudice.” (Winch, Gentleman, 330)His heart and hand were ever open to supply the needy; and to every species of distress, he was ever ready to give relief. Nor was his generosity regulated by any complexional distinctions. He stopped not to inquire to what nation they belonged, in whose behalf an appeal was made; it was always enough for him to know, that the appeal was made in behalf of suffering humanity. Hence, all those societies whose operations tend to the benefit of man, such as literary, temperance, anti-slavery, bible, tract, and missionary societies, all found in him a liberal patron. (Winch, Gentleman, 329)
1. In one year that worker earned £5.4. In 1791 American dollars, that amount was equivalent to $24.57, which meant that the shipyard worker had to work slightly more than forty years to earn what one privateer could make in a single successful voyage.
2. In 1791 American dollars, the brig was worth about $7,266,140 and the packet, $2,054,484.
3. The names at the top of the list were paroled first, which meant the lower on the list his name was, the longer he waited for freedom. James’ chances of obtaining his liberty lessened the longer he was a prisoner because of conditions on board the hulk.
4. A mess consisted of six men who ate together. James and the others in his mess took turns collecting the group’s ration of food for the day and taking it to the galley for cooking.
5. The spar deck, or weather deck, was the topmost deck open to the elements.
6. It took Parliament until 25 March 1782 to clarify what constituted a prisoner of war.
7. The remaining prisoners had to wait until the following year before regaining their freedom.
8. A fid is a long, tapered piece of wood ending in a point.
9. A marline-spike is an iron pin about sixteen inches in length. It’s tapered to a point and used to separate strands of rope.
10. Baltic canvas made the best sails.
11. No matter how small a sail, it was never made from a single piece of canvas. The seams added to the sail’s strength.
12. Hydrocephalus is the accumulation of fluid inside the cranium caused by the obstruction of cerebrospinal fluid. It most often occurs during infancy and causes an enlarging of the head. Also known as water on the brain.
13. When James Jr. died is unknown, although it might have been in 1870.
14. In 2006 American dollars, this equates to about $1,600,000.
For additional information on James Forten, the privateers of the American Revolution, and prison hulks, I recommend the following:
Black Hands, Blue Seas. Exhibit at Mystic Seaport through March 2008.
Bolster, W. Jeffrey. Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail. Harvard, 1998.
“A Brief History of Philadelphia,” ushistory.org (Independence Hall Association).
Chandler, Charles Lyon, Marion V. Brevington, and Edgar P. Richardson. Philadelphia: Port History 1609-1837. Philadelphia Maritime Museum, 1976.
Copeland, David A. Debating the Issues in Colonial Newspapers: Primary Documents on Events of the Period. Greenwood Press, 2000.
Cordingly, David. The Billy Ruffian: The Bellerophon and the Downfall of Napoleon. Bloomsbury, 2003.
Delany, Martin Robison. “Practical Utility of Colored People of the Present Day as Members of Society -- Businessman and Mechanics” in The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States. Philadelphia: 1852.
The Forten House.
Forten, James. “Letter to Cuffe,” Africans in America, PBS, 1998.
“The Forten Women,” Africans in America, PBS, 1998.
Garneray, Louis. The Floating Prison: The Remarkable Account of Nine Years’ Captivity on the British Prison Hulks during the Napoleonic Wars. Conway Maritime Press, 2003.
Gilbert, Ruth. “James Forten,” Pennsylvania Center for the Book. Penn State University.
Greene, Albert. Recollections of the Jersey Prison Ship from the Manuscript of Capt. Thomas Dring. Corinth Books, 1961.
Horodysky, Tamara. “African-American Mariners, in American History,” Berkeley Voice (18 Feb. 1999). [http://www.usmm.org/africanbvoice.html -- link no longer active 8/7/2015]
“James Forten (New Nation),” historical marker at ExplorePAHistory.com, 1990.
Krebs, Laurie. A Day in the Life of a Colonial Sailmaker. The Rosen Group, 2003.
McManemin, John A. Captains of the Privateers During the Revolutionary War. Ho-Ho-Kus Publishing, 1985.
Moebs, Thomas Truxton. Black Soldiers – Black Sailors – Black Ink: Research Guide on African-Americans in U.S. Military History, 1526-1900. Moebs Publishing, 1994.
Mystic Seaport, Mystic, Connecticut
Nell, William C. The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution. Arno Press and the New York Times, 1968.
Nesbit, Joanne. “A Privileged Environment No Protection from Racism,” The University Record (13 Feb. 1996).
Newman, Richard. “Not the Only Story in ‘Amistad’: The Fictional Joadson and the Real James Forten,” Pennsylvania History, 67 (Spring 2000), 218-239.
O’Regan, Deirdre. “Sailmaker James Forten,” Sea History, 116 (Autumn 2006), 16-17.
Penn (William Perinne). “Dock Street,” Evening Bulletin (27 Jan. 1919) at ushistory.org (Independence Hall Association).
Privateers or Merchant Mariners Help Win the Revolutionary War
Rastatter, Paul. “Black Soldiers and Sailors during the Revolution,” Early America Review (Summer/Fall 2004).
Rosemond, Gwendolyn Luella, and Joan M. Maloney. “To Educate the Heart,” Sextant, 1988. [http://www.salemstate.edu/150/150-charlotte_forten.php -- link no longer active 8/7/2015]
Winch, Julie. Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten. Oxford, 2002.
Winch, Julie. “The Making and Meaning of James Forten’s Letters from a Man of Colour,” The William and Mary Quarterly, 64:1.
© 2007 Cindy Vallar
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