Download Full Text (7.6 MB)


Abolitionist Mary Virginia Wood Forten (1815-1840), the mother of Charlotte Forten Grimké (1837-1914), created one of the four extant antebellum African American friendship albums. Born enslaved in North Carolina and emancipated at 17 by her wealthy planter father, she, her mother, and her three siblings relocated to Philadelphia in 1833. There, she became a charter member of the interracial Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society and the Female Vigilance Association. She married Robert B. Forten, son of antislavery activist James Forten, in 1836, and their daughter Charlotte Louise Forten was born the following year. She died of consumption in 1840 at the age of 25. Wood Forten belonged to the same elite African American circles in Philadelphia as Amy Matilda Cassey, to whose friendship album she also contributed. Like Cassey’s, Wood Forten’s album was the collaborative production of a close-knit community. Her husband Robert B. Forten came from one of Philadelphia’s prominent African American families, and his siblings Mary Isabella and James Forten, Jr. contributed to the album. It contains verses and inscriptions that display the refinement and respectability of elite African American men and women, and in some cases speak directly to the abolitionist cause.



Publication Date



Philadelphia, PA


Arts and Humanities


Material on Digital Howard is made available for research purposes only. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Additionally, the reproduction of some materials may be restricted by privacy and publicity rights, licensing or trademarks. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user. Please contact us at with any questions.

Poetry and Autographs Album Belonging to Mary Virginia Wood