Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Vigilance Committees

Robert Purvis

Photograph of Robert Purvis

Robert Purvis, pictured here in a daguerreotype made in the 1840s, brought the idea of Vigilance Committees to Philadelphia. (Boston Public Library)

Boston Public Library

Robert Purvis, pictured here in a daguerreotype made in the 1840s, brought the idea of Vigilance Committees to Philadelphia. He and his father-in-law, James Forten, organized Philadelphia’s committee, and others soon formed elsewhere in the region.

Under the leadership of Purvis and Forten, a group of men met in August 1837 to organize the “Vigilant Association of Philadelphia,” with the primary goal of aiding fugitives and kidnap victims.

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