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Charlotte Forten Grimke

2023 Women’s History Month

31 Historical Women from Philly

Charlotte Forten was born free to activist parents. Her family was part of Philadelphia’s elite Black community.

Private tutors educated Forten as her father did not want her to attend a public school. This was a privilege only wealthier families could afford.

Later Forten moved to Salem, Massachusetts where she joined the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society.

Forten called for Black women’s participation in the abolitionist crusade. She joined circles of significant abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison and Lydia Maria Child.

Moreover, her role in the community went beyond education. She was also a song leader, storyteller, nurse, Sunday school teacher, and companion to the elderly. She was among the few northern Black teachers to chronicle her time on the islands.

After the war, Forten taught in Boston, MA and Charleston, SC.

In 1872, she moved to Washington, DC, where she taught at a preparatory school later known as Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. One year later she became a clerk in the Treasury Department.

Throughout the 1890s, she published poems about DC, including “At the Home of Frederick Douglass” and “The Corcoran Art Gallery.”

In 1896, Forten helped found the National Association of Colored Women.

Forten remained active in the civil rights movement until her death on July 23, 1914.