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Poetry

Sarah Louisa Forten Purvis

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Sarah Louisa Forten Purvis was a black abolitionist poet active in the 1830s. Daughter of the wealthy abolitionist and businessman James Forten, she was one of the cofounders of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society with her mother and sisters. She contributed several poems as a correspondent to William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, under the pen names “Ada” and “Magawisca.” Forten Purvis’s poems, though few in number, have been the subject of considerable academic analysis for their depiction of the intersectional relationship between blackness and femininity. For instance, her poem “An Appeal to Women” was read to attendees of an antislavery convention for women and appealed to white women through their shared experience of femininity to join black women in the struggle against slavery.

Because some of Forten Purvis’s poems were written under the pen name “Ada,” which was also used by another abolitionist, Eliza Earle Hacker, there has been some confusion over which poems written by “Ada” should be attributed to Forten Purvis and which should be attributed to Hacker. This Standard Ebooks edition follows the bibliographic research of Todd S. Gernes, as published in his 1998 article in The New England Quarterly, “Poetic Justice: Sarah Forten, Eliza Earle, and the Paradox of Intellectual Property.”

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