Charlotte Forten was born in 1838 to a wealthy black family in Philadelphia. All her life she was a lover of books and a vociferous opponent of prejudice based on skin color. When she was twenty-two she became ill and had to give up her job as a teacher in Salem, Massachusetts. Unable to be active, she read voraciously, often a book a day, recording her thoughts in her journal.
“…how blessed it is to know that all the wealth of the ages can be ours, if we choose to grasp it! That we can live, not in this century, this corner of the world, alone, but in every century, every age, and every clime! That we can listen to the words of orators, poets, and sages; that we can enter into every conflict, share every joy, thrill with every noble deed, known since the world began. And hence are books to us a treasure and a blessing unspeakable. And they are doubly so when one is shut out from society as I am, and has not the opportunities to study those living, breathing, human books, which are, I doubt not, after all, the most profoundly interesting and useful study.” Charlotte L. Forten, January 1, 1860
From The Journal of Charlotte L. Forten: A Young Black Woman’s Reactions to the White World of the Civil War Era Dryden Press 1953
Read more of her writings: The Journals of Harriet Fortren