Charlotte Forten Grimké, from the Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimké
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Context: Charlotte Forten Grimké was born free in a prominent Black family in Philadelphia in 1837. She was a committed abolitionist, an advocate for women’s rights and served in the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society in Massachusetts. In 1861, the Union army gained control of the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina. Many people including Forten Grimké volunteered as educators to educate thousands of formerly enslaved people. While there she met Harriet Tubman, one of the most well-known and fearless architects of the Underground Railroad.
Saturday, January 31, 1862
In B[eaufort] we spent nearly all our time at Harriet Tubman’s otherwise [sic] “Moses.” She is a wonder woman – a real heroine. Has helped off a large number of slaves, after taking her own freedom. She told us that she used to hide them in the woods during the day and go around to get provisions for them. Once she had with her a man named Joe, for whom a reward of $1500 was offered. Frequently, in different places she found handbills exactly describing him, but at last they reached in safety the Suspension Bridge over the Falls and found themselves in Canada. Until then, she said, Joe had been very silent. In vain had she called his attention to the glory of the Falls. He sat perfectly still – moody, it seemed, and w[ou]ld not even glance at them. But when she said, “Now we are in Can[ada]” he sprang to his feet – with a great shout and sang and clapped his hands in a perfect delirium of joy. So when they got out, and he first touched free soil, he shouted and hurrahed “as if he were crazy” – she said. How exciting it was to hear her tell the story. And to hear her sing the very scraps of jubilant hymns that he sang. She said the ladies crowded around them, and some laughed and some cried. My own eyes were full as I listened to her – the heroic woman! A reward of $10,000 was offered for her by Southerners, and her friends deemed it best that she sh[ou]ld, for a time find refuse in Can[ada]. And she did so, but only for a short time. She came back and was soon at the good brave work again. She is living in B[eaufort] now; keeping an eating house. But she wants to go North, and will probably do so ere long. I am glad I saw her – very glad.
Edited by: Professor Prithi Kanakamedala
Source: Forten, Charlotte L., and Brenda E. Stevenson (editor), The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimké. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.