Charlotte Forten Grimke: The Chalkboard Champion of Emancipated Slaves

Charlotte-Forten-11384-1-402[1][1]One of the most heroic teachers I have ever heard of is an African American woman named Charlotte Forten Grimke. This amazing woman, who was born a free black in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 17, 1837, became a teacher of newly emancipated slaves in Port Royal, South Carolina, during the Civil War. After the Union Army pushed through the area, freeing the slaves along the way, the government recognized that these newest citizens desperately needed assistance in basic literacy skills and some vocational training on how to take care of themselves. Charlotte agreed to travel to the South, despite the high risk to her own personal freedom and her rather delicate health. While the war raged on around them, she set up a school and diligently held classes for students who ranged in age from kinders to grandparents. When the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, an all-black regiment, suffered high casualties at Fort Wagner on July18, 1863, Charlotte left her classroom with a substitute teacher and went to the soldiers’ aid as a nurse and letter writer at the nearby hospital where the injured had been taken.
You can read her fascinating story in her own words through her very copious journals, The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimke, or you can read a shorter chapter about her life in my book, Chalkboard Champions. Either way, the story is a good read.