Jim Beggs ENGL 872 The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimké. Ed. Brenda Stevenson. NY: Oxford, 1988. Biographical b.

August 17, 1837 in Philadelphia, PA. “The Forten family was among the most prestigious and and wealthy of the Philadelphia free black community. Moreover, they used their financial and social standing to support local and regional reform movements, most particularly the efforts to abolish slavery and to establish legal equality for blacks” (3). Charlotte's grandfather, James Forten worked for a sail maker in Philadelphia named Robert Bridges. Eventually he bought the company and patented a “unique and lucrative device for the handling of sails” (5). The position of free blacks was not stable or secure. “In 1838, for example, white mobs in Philadelphia destroyed an orphanage for black children by setting fire to it, tried to burn down one black church, and vandalized another. This was also the year voters adopted a new Pennsylvania state constitution that disenfranchised free blacks” (12). Father Robert Forten b. 1813, moved to Canada in 1855, where he had some financial difficulties. He moved to England in 1858. He returned to the United States in 1862 to enroll in the Union army. Mother Mary Virginia Woods Forten died when Charlotte was “quite young” (15). Moved to Salem in 1853 to finish her education. “Robert Forten had refused to send her to the poorly equipped and racially segregated schools designated for black children in Philadelphia. Mr. Forten discovered from friends that Salem had integrated schools of sound reputation.” There was also a normal school which would set her on a teaching career. She stayed in the home of old family friends (Charles & Amy Remond). Met John Whittier and Lydia Maria Child while in Salem. First year and a half in Salem – Higginson Grammar School. Spelling, reading, writing, English grammar, arithmetic, modern geography, American history. Then Salem Normal School. Journals 3 & 4 deal with her time on St. Helena Island, part of the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina. Wealthy planters evacuated plantations on the islands, leaving behind ten thousand slaves. The US government confiscated the remaining slaves as “contraband of war” for the use of Union forces” (37). Freed on July 17, 1862. Married, of all people, a “black graduate student who was twelve years her junior—Francis Grimké” in December 19, 1878. Writing and Reading History The trial of fugitive slave Anthony Burns. “On June 2, 1854, the U.S. Court at Boston ruled that Anthony Burns was the escaped property of Charles F. Suttle, a merchant of Alexandria, Virginia, and

ordered that he be returned immediately to his master” (555). Did abolitionists contemplate a jailbreak to free Burns? “Even an attempt at rescue was utterly impossible; the prisoner was completely surrounded by soldiers with bayonets fixed, a canon loaded, ready to be fired at the slightest sign” (65). Grimké goes on to say that there was in fact an attempt to free him on May 26. Members of a protest crowd used axes and battering rams on the door of the jail. Armed police struggled with the crowd, and an officer was shot and killed. Soldiers provided security for the remainder of the trial. (66 & 555) Abolition, Ministers & Patriotism “In the evening Miss Sarah Remond read aloud Mr. Frothingham's sermon, whose stern truths shocked so many of his congregation. We, of course, were deeply interested in it, and felt grateful to this truly Christian minister for his eloquent defense of oppressed humanity. While Miss R. was reading, Miss [Mary?] Osborne came in, and said she believed that we never talked or read anything but Anti-slavery; she was quite tired of it” (73). Splits within the abolitionist movement. “[Andrew Foss] spoke of the objections made by many of the Abolitionists, on the plea of their using too violent language; they say that the slave-holders are driven by it to worse measures; what they need is mild entreaty, etc., etc. But the petition against the Nebraska Bill, couched in the very mildest terms by the clergymen of the North, was received even less favorably by the South, than the harshest sayings of the Abolitionists; and they were abused and denounced more severely than the latter have ever been (78).” “This afternoon Miss Shepard allowed Lizzie [Church] and me to read a few pages of her journal which interested us very much; but we dared not appropriate any more of its precious contents “(87). Aug. 1st 1854 - 20th anni. Brit. Emancipation Rev. Charles Hodges: “His subject was the final issue of slavery, and he showed in the most conclusive manner how utterly impossible it is for liberty and slavery to exist in union; one of them must eventually triumph. He thinks that the latter will do so, and the country sink into inevitable ruin. And then on the ruins of the old republic, will be founded a new and glorious one” (113). James Appleton: “forcibly and eloquently advocated the principles of moral action against slavery, denouncing all political action as being necessarily based on the Constitution, the very root of the evil . . . All of which, of course, had my entire sympathy and approbation” (116). The Subjective Experience “Often I think there is nothing worth living for. Nothing! Those whom we love best die and leave us. We are a poor, oppressed people, with very many trials, and very few friends “(163). “I wonder that every colored person is not a misanthrope. Surely we have everything to make us hate mankind. I have met girls in the schoolroom—they have been thoroughly kind and cordial to me— perhaps the next day met them in the street—they feared to recognize me . . . these are but trifles . . . [they] early teach a lesson of suspicion and distrust.” (140).

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