This past June, my family and I toured the city of Philadelphia. This city was the birthplace of our nation, so we took the opportunity to visit historic sites of some of America’s Black Founding Fathers. Most of our tour took place on Juneteenth, or June 19, a very special holiday that commemorates the last day freedom arrived in our nation after the Civil War. On this historic day, June 19, 1865, Union soldiers rode into Galveston, Texas with the Emancipation Proclamation and the news that the Civil War had ended. All those still enslaved in that state were finally set free.
One stop was at the home of James Forten. The marker in front of his house reads:
James Forten (1766-1842)
A wealthy sailmaker who employed multi-racial craftsmen, Forten was a leader of the African-American community in Philadelphia and a champion of reform causes. The American Antislavery Society was organized in his house here in 1833.
We went down to the docks and took a ride on the river. This was the Philadelphia that James Forten knew since he was a lad. He grew up making sails for the tall ships that came in and out of port. Eventually, he bought the sail loft where he worked and became one of the wealthiest men in America. James Forten used his money and devoted his time to help lead the fight to bring an end to slavery.
Another stop our family made was to Mother Bethel AME Church. On the steps as we went in, we were interviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer who was writing an article about the Underground Railroad and visitors to Black historic sites in Philadelphia. We joined other visitors in the quiet hush of the historic sanctuary. The stained glass windows are just amazingly beautiful to see, such as this one of the church’s founder, Richard Allen.
We toured the Richard Allen Museum in the basement of the church. I must admit, it was a highlight of my writing career as well as one of the most meaningful mornings of my life to visit the museum in honor of this man who was probably the most influential Black Founder of our nation. His courage to blaze a trail no one had yet had the strength to make, his faith in his God and his country, his deep love and compassion for all people both black and white, and his amazing leadership daily inspire me. At the time of our visit to the Richard Allen Museum, I was eager to see with my own eyes historic artifacts of this man I wrote about in D is for Drinking Gourd both for “F is for Founding Fathers” and “Z is for Zion.” I was also intent on gathering information in hopes of one day writing a book about Richard Allen—and after I returned home from this trip, I landed a book contract to write a new book for kids with Richard Allen as the focus! After my Virtual Book Tour is finished at the end of this month, I’ll begin writing this book. My deadline is December 15, 2008, so it probably will be published in the fall of 2009. Keep an eye out for it!
Yesterday’s Trivia Q and A:
Yesterday’s question was: Which of America’s Founding Fathers was the Frederick Douglass of his generation?
The answer is: a. Richard Allen (1760-1831). He was well-known in the early years of our nation for speaking out for equality and organizing self-help, moral, and religious groups. His influence eventually reached across the nation and to various countries around the world. The co-founder of the Free African Society, Richard Allen influenced his nation and his world. Among his many amazing accomplishments, he was the founder and first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, President of the first Negro Convention, writer, abolitionist, and was active on the Underground Railroad.
Today’s Trivia Question:
Which of America’s Founding Fathers also took part in the American Revolution?
a. James Forten, wealthy sailmaker and abolitionist
b. Richard Allen, founder of the AME Church
c. Barzillai Lew, fifer and drummer
d. All of the above
Submit your answer by posting it as a comment to today’s blog. It won’t be published on the blog, but your name will be put in a hat to be drawn for 5 prizes to give away at the end of the tour. Check back in tomorrow for the answer!
On Day 4 of my Virtual Book Tour, we’ll visit award sites for D is for Drinking Gourd!