On February 28, the last day of Black History Month and the first day of Women’s History Month, Salem State University held an official dedication and ribbon cutting of the Charlotte Forten Legacy Room, which celebrates the life and legacy of Charlotte Louise Bridges Forten (Salem Normal School 1856).
The Charlotte Forten Legacy Room was made possible through a generous donation of the Alumni Association and includes an exhibit which details the life and work of Charlotte Forten. The exhibit, located on the third floor of Meier Hall, will be open to the public.
Charlotte’s story starts in Philadelphia where she was brought up in a radical abolitionist family. She traveled to Salem for equal education, but faced inequality due to her race and gender throughout her life and used her pen to express her outrage and advocate for solutions. Ignoring the personal risk, she went behind enemy lines in the Civil War to teach newly free people of color. And, after emancipation, in Boston and Washington, DC she continued as an educator and activist working with freedmen, schools, women’s groups and churches to uplift and mobilize. Throughout her entire life she was a creator, penning journals, poems, parodies, articles, opinion pieces and translations.
“Charlotte paved the way for each and every student of color that walks our campus, each student of color that finds their voice, and each student of color that leaves Salem State to positively impact the future. Her commitment to social justice lives on in all of our students today,” said Salem State University President John Keenan.
“This room that we dedicated will serve as a space for our students, faculty, and staff, to gather to cultivate and nurture new ideas. Within these walls, we encourage members of our campus community to reflect on the legacy of Charlotte Forten,” he added.
Speakers at the event included: Salem State University President John Keenan; City of Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll; Salem State Alumni Association President Joseph Wamness ’00G; Professor Emerita Mary-Lou Breitborde; former Academic Associate Dean and current Visiting Lecturer Gwen Rosemond; and graduate student Fillette Lovaincy.
The Charlotte Forten Legacy Room Working Group was comprised of current and retired members of the Salem State community, including: Beth Bower, Mary-Lou Breitborde, Nate Bryant, Sarina Charles, Rebecca Comage, Lucinda Damon-Bach, Alyce Davis, Susan Edwards, Regina Flynn, Fillette Lovaincy, Francis Mayo, Mandy Ray, Gwen Rosemond, Louise Swiniarski, and Ben Szalewicz.
“Working with a talented, passionate group of individuals, we created a space that brings Charlotte back to our campus and is fitting of her life and legacy,” said Nate Bryant, chief of staff and chair of the Charlotte Forten Legacy Room working group. “Our group worked endlessly to ensure that Charlotte will be honored and celebrated by members of our campus community for years to come.”