Life on the Sea Islands

by Charlotte Forten Grimké

The Atlantic Monthly has preserved Charlotte Forten Grimké’s writings in their archives.  Read them below (in two parts):

Charles Barkley’s Black History Month All Stars

All Star #17: Charlotte Forten Grimké

In 2016, Charles Barkley marked Black History Month with a daily spotlight on local African-American heroes. Many of them didn’t make it into the history books or even the newspapers of their time. But their stories are inspiring and worth knowing. Here’s another look.


Charlotte Forten Grimké


Charlotte Forten Grimké


(August 17, 1837- July 23, 1914)

Born into a wealthy family in Philadelphia that valued both intellect and activism, Charlotte Forten Grimké was always eager to educate and engage a deprived African-American community.

She was the first black northerner to go south and teach former slaves.

During the Civil War, on Union-occupied St. Helena Island, she taught ex-slaves as part of the Port Royal Experiment.

While there, she struggled to connect with the islanders who hardly spoke English and who struggled following the daily routines of school.

Nevertheless, once she detailed her experiences in an article published by Atlantic Monthly, more schools started popping up in the south for African Americans.

She was also an avid writer, keeping journals that have drawn attention for their insightful take on America during and after slavery.


  • Higginson Grammar School
  • Norman School



  • Leader of the Port Royal Experiment
  • Appointed clerk in the U.S. Treasury Department
  • Had work published in William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator
  • The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimké was published in 1988


FINAL WORD: “I shall dwell again among ‘mine own people.’ I shall gather my scholars about me, and see smiles of greeting break over their dusky faces. My heart sings a song of thanksgiving, at the thought that even I am permitted to do something for a long-abused race, and aid in promoting a higher, holier, and happier life on the Sea Islands,” Forten said.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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