James Forten – He Revolutionised Sails For Boats And Opened His Home As An Underground Railroad Depot


James Forten was a free black man born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1766. Throughout his life he did many great things, amassing a huge fortune by revolutionising sails for boats but gave back heavily to his fellow man.

He was the grandson of enslaved people but was always a free man. He started work young, at age 8, working for Robert Bridges sail loft. His father also worked there. Sadly his father died in a boating accident when he was 9 and he had to step up his work and support the family.

At 14 he served as a powder boy, the revolutionary war was raging and he was captured by the British. He was released and returned home to continue on his destiny, working back at the loft.

He became foreman and when Bridges retired in 1798 he loaned Forten the money to buy the business. He became the employer of 38 people!

As the boss he started experimenting and invented new sails that greatly improved manoeuvring and maintaining greater speeds. He never patented these sails but his business dd become one of the most successful in Philadelphia.

His huge fortune gave him a luxurious life but he never forgot his fellow man.

he was devoted towards abolitionist causes, buying freedom for slaves, funding the William Garrison’s newspaper and opening his home as an Underground Railroad depot! He also opened a school for black children.

He passed away in 1842.

PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.


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