Inside the Vault: Fighting for the Rights of Black Lives in the Founding Era
by Gilder Lehrman Staff
Prince Hall and James Forten protested the treatment of Black Americans during the Founding Era. In 1788 in Boston, Hall wrote a petition demanding the Massachusetts government protect Black sailors from being kidnapped and sold into slavery. He also wanted the state to ban slave-trading ships from entering the harbor. In 1813 in Philadelphia, Forten wrote a pamphlet denouncing a proposed bill that curtailed the rights of Black people and prohibited the immigration of people of color into Pennsylvania. In the June 17, 2021, session of Inside the Vault, Mandel Holland, history educator from New York, and Elijah Malcomb from Hamilton joined us as we examined the writings of these two men who fought for the rights of Black lives in the Founding Era.
Click here to download the slides from the presentation.
Classroom-ready resources for the documents presented
- “Prince Hall, Petition to the General Court of Massachusetts,” April 12, 1788
- James Forten’s Letters from a Man of Colour, 1813
- Spotlight on Primary Source: “Black Volunteers in the Nation’s First Epidemic, 1793” by Absalom Jones and Richard Allen
- Essay: “Anti-Slavery Literature in the Founding Era” by James G. Basker
- Video: “In Hope of Liberty: Northern Free Blacks, 1700–1860” by James Oliver Horton
Use the timestamps below to jump to the topics you want to view
- “Prince Hall, Petition to the General Court of Massachusetts”: 3:26–26:55
- James Forten’s Letters from a Man of Colour: 32:38–1:02:30