News Release

Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route and Museum of the American Revolution Partner to Commission Artwork Highlighting Crucial Role of African Americans in American Revolution

Portrait of James Forten
James Forten

Black Founders: The Free Black Community in the Early Republic. Library Company of Philadelphia.

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News Release Date: June 8, 2020

Contact: Johnny Carawan, (610) 783-1006

King of Prussia, PA – The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail (WARO) has announced a partnership with Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution to highlight the lesser known stories of African Americans, indigenous populations, women and children and their contributions to the American Revolution. The partnership includes the commissioning of a painting by renowned American artist Don Troiani, in an exhibition of Troiani's work at the Museum.

The commission will depict James Forten (1766-1842), a free teenaged African American Philadelphian who, in 1781, witnessed the march of American and French forces through the city on their way to Yorktown, Virginia. Forten’s patriotism was particularly animated by presence of companies of Black soldiers in the Rhode Island Regiment of the Continental Army.

The commissioned painting will show Forten and a diverse cast of Philadelphians watching the march of Washington’s Continental forces, specifically the ethnically diverse ranks of the Rhode Island Regiment, marching down Chestnut Street near Independence Hall.

This commission depicts a critical moment in Forten's early life, when the promise of the Revolution motivated him to take up arms, despite the personal risks, including possible capture and enslavement. It will illuminate an early chapter in the life of a man who would become one of Philadelphia's most prominent citizens in the early 19th century, as well as a leading abolitionist. Forten was inspired by the belief that the founding ideals of freedom and equality applied to all Americans.

“This project aligns with the Trail’s mission to uncover and share compelling stories about the diverse people and complex events associated with the American Revolution,” said Trail Administrator Johnny Carawan. “Most importantly, it brings us closer to helping the public make personal connections to the Washington-Rochambeau trail.”

“The Museum of the American Revolution is excited to partner with the National Park Service to commemorate the crucial role of African Americans in the American Revolution,” said Dr. Scott Stephenson, President and CEO of the Museum of the American Revolution.

Troiani anticipates that he will complete the painting by early 2021. It will be featured in a special exhibit at the museum in 2021. Following the exhibit, it will remain in the museum’s permanent collection.

WARO is a 680-mile National Historic Trail, which includes the land and water corridors that follow the routes taken by American and French armies under the commands of General Washington and Comte de Rochambeau to and from the siege of Yorktown, Virginia, a pivotal event in the American Revolutionary War. The trail traverses nine states: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, plus the District of Columbia.

For questions please contact the Trail Administrator, Johnny Carawan at (610) 783-1006 or by email at


About the National Park Service: More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 419 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at

Last updated: June 15, 2020

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