Robert Purvis & the Philadelphia Vigilant Committee

Tuesday October 21, 2014

7:00pm – Community Education Center, 3500 Lancaster Avenue

robertpurvisRobert Purvis & the Philadelphia Vigilant Committee

In 1832, at the age of the twenty-two, Robert Purvis wrote a petition with William Whipper opposing Congressional funding of the emigration of free slaves to Africa. In 1833 Purvis helped found the American Anti-Slavery Society and Harriet Purvis joined in the founding of Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. In 1834, he traveled through England speaking for the abolitionist cause and there embraced the Irish movement for self-government, noting the parallels in African Americans fight for suffrage in the United States. Back in Philadelphia, Purvis joined white abolitionists in founding the Vigilant Committee of Philadelphia, which operated the first and most successful Underground Railroad operation in southeastern Pennsylvania.  The public fraternizing of white and black men and women in the abolition movement outraged its opponents. The Purvises were attendees at the second Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women, when a Philadelphia mob burned down Pennsylvania Hall on May 16, 1838. The threat of violence, however, did not deter them. Later in 1838 Purvis joined James and Lucretia Mott in the founding of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. Purvis served as president of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society from 1845 to 1850 and vice president of the American Anti-Slavery Society from 1841 to 1865. After the Pennsylvania Abolition Society reorganized its Vigilance Committee in 1852 Purvis served as its president until 1857. Participating in the abolition movement Purvis worked with a committed interracial community of social activists and reformers, including the Motts, William Still, Thomas Garrett, and Stephen Smith.  Work in the anti-slavery movement drew him into causes, including women’s suffrage, temperance, and the rights of Native Americans. “In the matter of rights,” he would often state, “there is just one race, and that is the human race.”

Invited Presenters include: Bruce Dorsey, Professor of History at Swarthmore College; V. Chapman- Smith, national strategist for education at the national Archives; Emma Lapsansky-Warner, Emeritus Professor of History and Curator of the Quaker Collection at Haverford College; Richard Newman, Director of the Library Company of Philadelphia

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Posted in Hidden History, Underground Railroad In Philadelphia
1 Comment » for Robert Purvis & the Philadelphia Vigilant Committee
  1. Jean Haskell says:

    I will attend this event on October 21st and will bring a friend.

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