Charlotte Grimké

Photo of Charlotte Forten Grimké
Charlotte Forten Grimké
New York Public Library

Quick Facts

Significance:
African American anti-slavery activitst, poet and educator
Place of Birth:
Philadelphia, PA
Date of Birth
August 17, 1837
Date of Death
July 23, 1914
Cemetery Name
Unknown

Charlotte Forten Grimké was an abolitionist, writer, poet, teacher and prominent member of Philadelphia's elite black community. Active in abolitionist circles before the Civil War, Forten was the first black teacher to arrive on the Sea Islands of South Carolina after Federal troops occupied the islands in 1861.

She and others were recruited by Federal authorities to establish a system of public schools on the islands to educate the newly liberated black population. While there, Forten forged a deep friendship with Robert Gould Shaw, the commander of the all-black 54th Massachusetts Infantry during the Sea Islands Campaign, and was present when the 54th stormed Fort Wagner on the night of July 18, 1863. She chronicled her time on the islands in her essays, "Life on the Sea Islands," which were published in Atlantic Monthly in the May and June issues of 1864.

After the war, Forten worked to recruit teachers for the U.S. Treasury Department and became a Treasury clerk in 1873. In December 1878, when Forten was 41, she married the Reverend Francis J. Grimké, a former slave and the minister of Washington's Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church. She remained active in the civil rights movement until her death in 1914.