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Charlotte Forten was an African-American teacher and abolitionist who wrote extensive diaries covering the Civil War and the post-war years.
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Her efforts often reached outside the classroom, and she found herself visiting the homes of the various families in order to instill "self-pride, self-respect, and self-sufficiency," she once wrote.
Forten wrote about her experiences in her diary, and a series of her entries were later published in the form of the essay series "Life on the Sea Islands" for the Atlantic Monthly in 1864.
Forten had to abandon her work for health reasons. She began to experience terrible headaches and went home to Philadelphia in 1864. For several years, Forten worked for the Teachers Committee of the New England Freemen's Union Commission. She later returned to teaching, spending time in Charleston, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C.
In 1878, Forten married Francis J. Grimke, a Presbyterian minister. He was the nephew of two famous social activists, Sarah and Angelina Grimke. The couple had one child together, a daughter named Theodora Cornelia, who died during her infancy.
Throughout the rest of her life, Forten wrote and spoke out on social issues, including women's rights and racial prejudice. She also supported her husband's work at the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.
Forten died on July 23, 1914, in Washington, D.C. Her diaries, which have been published numerous times over the years, have proved to be her most lasting legacy. With her writings, she has provided an eyewitness account of such a pivotal and turbulent time in American history. Forten also offers her readers a glimpse at such famous figures as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and many other leading activists of her day.
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