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James Forten lived during the Revolutionary War. When he was just a fourteen-year-old boy he served in the Continental Army as a powder boy, which was a dangerous job. He was serving on a ship which was captured by an English ship commanded by Sir John Beasley. He was transferred to a British prison ship called the Jersey where thousands of prisoners died in an epidemic. He was finally released. He then returned to Philadelphia in 1785 and started working as an apprentice for Robert Bridges, the man who had employed his father. He was a hard worker, and after a time was put in charge as foreman over his white co-workers. Then he became a junior partner, and eventually bought the business after being employed there for thirteen years. His invention improved the sailing ships. He became a wealthy man. During his life he saved twelve people from drowning. He helped the African American people to become free in America.