James Forten, Jr. was the son of Charlotte and James E. Forten, prominent Philadelphia abolitionists and as such was part of a second generation of three generations of political activists. Raised in this remarkable family, James Forten, Jr., became politically active at an early age. While still a teenager, he wrote for the Liberator and was an active member of the Young Men"s Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia and of the American Moral Reform Society. On the evening of April 14, 1836, nineteen-year-old Forten presented an address to the Ladies" Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia. That address appears below.
LADIES —There is nothing that could more forcibly induce me to express my humble sentiments at all times, than an entire consciousness that is the duty of every individual who would wish to see the foul curse of slavery swept forever from the land—who wishes to become one amongst the undaunted advocates of the oppressed—who wishes to deal amongst the undaunted advocates of the oppressed—who wishes to deal justly and love mercy. In a word, it is my indispensable duty, in view of the wretched, the helpless, the friendless condition of my countrymen in chains, to raise my voice, feeble though it be, in their behalf; to plead for the restoration of their inalienable rights. As to the character of the ANTI-SLAVERY-SOCIETY, it requires but one glance from an impartial eye, to discover the purity of its motives—the great strength of its moral energies; its high and benevolent-its holy and life giving principles. These are the foundations, the very architecture of Abolition, and prove its sovereignty. In fact, all associated bodies which have for their great aim the destruction of tyranny, and the moral and intellectual improvement of mankind, have been, and ever will, considered as bearing a decided superiority over all others. And how well may this Association, before which I now have the honor to appear, be deemed one of that