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Harriet Forten Purvis

AKA Harriet Davy Forten Purvis

Born: 1810
Died: 11-Jun-1875
Location of death: Philadelphia, PA
Cause of death: Tuberculosis
Remains: Buried, Fair Hill Burial Ground, Philadelphia, PA

Gender: Female
Religion: Quaker
Race or Ethnicity: Black
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Activist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: African-American abolitionist

Abolitionist Harriet Forten Purvis was a founding member of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833, and frequently lectured against segregation and for black and women's suffrage. Born to a free black family, she was a leading member of the city's Female Vigilant Society, which provided money, clothes, food, and transport for runaway slaves, and her home was a frequent stop for fugitive slaves seeking freedom. Because her husband was of mixed race and thus far lighter-skinned than she, they were often suspected of miscegenation, which at least once led to a riot which they narrowly escaped. Their home was a frequent target of harassment and arson attempts, until Purvis and her husband relocated from Philadelphia to Byberry, an outlying area.

Purvis's entire family was among the most prominent African-American abolitionists of the early 19th century, including her father, sailmaker and Convention of Color founder James Forten, and her husband Robert Purvis, who was informally called the President of the Underground Railroad. Their son, physician Charles B. Purvis, was the first African-American to manage an American hospital. Her sister Margaretta, who was more drawn to suffragette than abolitionist activism, married abolitionist Joseph Purvis, the brother of Harriet's husband. In addition to their eight children, Purvis also raised her niece, Charlotte Forten Grimké, who became a well-known abolitionist and poet.

Father: James Forten (sailmaker and abolitionist, b. 1766, d. 1842)
Mother: Charlotte Vandine Forten (teacher, b. 1785, d. 1884)
Brother: Robert Bridges Forten (abolitionist, b. 1813, d. 1864)
Sister: Margaretta Forten (suffragette, b. 1815, d. 1875)
Sister: Sarah Louisa Forten Purvis (abolitionist, b. 1814, d. 1883)
Brother: James Forten, Jr. (abolitionist)
Brother: William Deas Forten (abolitionist, b. 1823, d. 1900)
Brother: Thomas Francis William Forten
Husband: Robert Purvis (abolitionist, m. 13-Sep-1831, d. 1898)
Son: William P. Purvis (b. 1832, d. 1857)
Son: Robert Purvis Jr. (b. 1834, d. 1862)
Son: Joseph Parrish Purvis (b. 1836, d. 1851)
Daughter: Harriet Purvis (b. 1839, d. 1905)
Son: Charles Burleigh Purvis (physician, b. 14-Apr-1842, d. 30-Jan 30-1929)
Son: Henry William Purvis (b. 1844, d. 28-Sep-1907)
Son: Granville Sharp Purvis (b. 1846, d. 1907)
Daughter: Georgianna Purvis (b. 1848, d. 1877)

    High School: Grace Douglass School, Philadelphia, PA

    Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society
    Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society
    Underground Railroad

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