Black Founders: The Forten Family of Philadelphia

black found fathers

The exhibit features more than 100 historical artifacts, works of art, and documents from 38 different lenders, including both institutions and private collectors, as well as the Museum’s own collection. Rare historical objects on loan from descendants of the Forten family are on view for the very first time in a public exhibit.

The exhibit features videos, audio experiences, and tactile interactives, including a partial recreation of James Forten’s sailmaking workshop. Visitors of all ages are able to try on recreations of sailors clothing, similar to what James Forten wore as a teenaged sailor during the Revolutionary War. 

Accompanying the exhibition, two original 20-minute first-person theatrical performances written by playwright Marissa Kennedy dramatize the life and experiences of James Forten. Meet Young James Forten is portrayed by actor Nathan Alford-Tate and tells the story of teenaged Forten joining a privateer ship to serve during the Revolutionary War. A filmed version of the performance is now available to watch online any time. Meet Elder James Forten is portrayed by actor Steve Crum and follows a 72-year-old Forten as he reflects on the progress and challenges of his lifetime.

Live virtual versions of the performances, which include a question-and-answer session with the actor and a Museum educator, are available to be booked by school groups. To book, contact [email protected] or 267.579.3623.

History and Preservation