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Robert Purvis (American National Biography)

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Joseph A. Boromé, "Purvis, Robert," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/15/15-00559.html.

[Robert Purvis] was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of William Purvis, a naturalized British cotton broker, and Harriet Judah, the free mulatto daughter of a German Jewish flour merchant and an emancipated slave of Moorish extraction…An intimate of James Forten, the wealthy black sailmaker, Purvis threw himself into anticolonization activities, denouncing the design to deport free blacks to colonies outside the United States. He married Forten's daughter, Harriet, in 1831; they had eight children. After Harriet's death in 1875, he married Tacy Townsend, a white Quaker. When Lundy's associate, William Lloyd Garrison, looked to publish The Liberator (1831) and his hostile Thoughts on African Colonization (1832), Purvis and Forten aided him by gathering subscriptions and raising funds. Both were charter members of the American Anti-Slavery Society formed in Philadelphia in 1833. Following the first annual meeting of the society, Purvis, sailed in 1834 to Britain, having obtained a U.S. passport through the intervention of President Andrew Jackson, where for three months he promoted the American antislavery cause and visited relatives. His return voyage provided him with a tale he delighted to tell for the remainder of his life: he had been showered with social courtesies by fellow passengers, notably the racial purist Arthur Peronneau Hayne of South Carolina, all of them miscued by his light complexion, until he disclosed, shortly before landing, that he belonged "to the degraded tribe of Africans."

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How to Cite This Page: "Robert Purvis (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/18199.