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Forten, James (1766-1842) Letters from a man of colour, on a late bill before the Senate of Pennsylvania.

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC06046 Author/Creator: Forten, James (1766-1842) Place Written: Pennsylvania Type: Pamphlet Date: circa 1813 Pagination: 11 p. ; 20.5 x 25 cm.

Summary of Content: An eloquent response to a bill in the Pennsylvania senate to stop the emigration of people of color into the state. Forten wrote anonymously, signing his letters "A Man of Colour." Five letters respond to the Pennsylvania bill, arguing that Pennsylvania has been a refuge for freed slaves and that blacks have unalienable rights set forth in the Declaration of Independence, which are protected by the Constitution. Forten writes, "The dog is protected and pampered at the board of his master, while the poor African and his descendant, whether a Saint or a felon, is branded with infamy, registered as a slave, and we may expect shortly to find a law to prevent their increase, by taxing them according to numbers, and authorizing the Constables to seize and confine every one who dare to walk the streets without a collar on his neck! What have the people of colour been guilty of..."

Background Information: James Forten was born a free black man in Philadelphia on 2 September 1766. He ran a profitable sail-making business and worked toward equal rights between black and white Pennsylvanians. His belief ...in equality led him to write this pamphlet, denouncing a racist bill then being considered in the Pennsylvania legislature. Later he became friends with William Lloyd Garrison. He helped to fund Garrison's abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, and contributed letters of opinion. Forten continued fighting against slavery until 4 March 1842, when he died at age 75. See More

People: Forten, James, 1766-1842

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: Immigration and MigrationAfrican American HistoryFreemenUS ConstitutionDeclaration of IndependenceLawGovernment and CivicsCivil RightsBill of RightsSlavery

Sub Era: The Age of Jefferson & Madison

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