Tuesday, July 31, 2012

African-American abolitionist named Robert Purvis

African-American abolitionist named Robert Purvis (August 4, 1810 – April 15, 1898)

The Executive Committee of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, c. 1851, included (seated, right to left) James Mott, Lucretia Mott, and Robert Purvis.

African-American abolitionist named Robert Purvis (August 4, 1810 – April 15, 1898)

The current condition of The Robert Purvis House on 1601 Mount Vernon Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

One of the original leaders of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee, which helped to organize the city's Underground Railroad activities, Robert Purvis was also a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and president of its Pennsylvania chapter.

Although he appeared to many to be white, Purvis considered himself African American. His maternal grandfather, a German-Jewish immigrant, married his maternal grandmother, an African-born slave, in South Carolina. And there his mother married a wealthy white English businessman. Purvis was raised in Philadelphia, to which his parents had moved before his birth. After graduating from Amherst College, he married the daughter of noted Philadelphia black businessman James Forten.

Before the Civil War, the building where Purvis hid escaped slaves was located at Ninth and Lombard Streets, but it was not his primary residence. Purvis lived with his family at a farm in Byberry, Bucks County, because local white mobs, believing that he was a white man married to a black woman, kept targeting his city home for vandalism. The racism of his neighbors enraged Purvis, who wrote that "the apathy and inhumanity of the Whole community" demonstrated the "utter and complete nothingness" of blacks in nineteenth-century American society. (http://explorepahistory.com/hmarker.php?markerId=1-A-107)


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