Salem State University Honors First Black Alumna, Charlotte Forten, with Renaming of Residence Hall


March 13, 2024

Salem State University recently unveiled the renaming of its residence hall, dedicating it to Charlotte Forten, the university’s first African American graduate from the class of 1856. The university announced in a statement that Viking Hall, now known as Charlotte Forten Hall, will honor the legacy of this remarkable woman who was an abolitionist, educator, writer, poet, translator, and women’s rights activist.

The dedication ceremony, held on campus, marked a significant milestone for Salem State University as it recognized Forten’s enduring contributions to the fields of activism and social justice. President John Keenan expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to honor Forten, “Charlotte is celebrated on our campus, and her passion for social justice is woven into our curriculum and campus life today. I am grateful to Michael Corley for raising this matter and for the Board of Trustees support of this naming in recognition of this important alumna.”


The initiative to rename Viking Hall after Charlotte Forten was spearheaded by former student trustee Michael Corley ’23, now serving as a constituent services and special projects assistant in the Office of Salem Mayor Dominick Pangallo. Corley’s advocacy stemmed from his discovery of Forten’s story during a first-year seminar class, prompting him to push for her recognition on campus. His efforts culminated in the renaming of Viking Hall, a decision that Corley described as an opportunity for others to learn about Forten’s impactful legacy.

Photo: Charlotte Forten / Credit: Salem State University

Charlotte Forten’s journey from Philadelphia to Salem for an equal education at what is now Salem State University exemplifies her commitment to social progress and educational equity. As the first African American teacher in Salem’s public schools, Forten broke barriers and paved the way for future generations of educators and activists. Her tireless advocacy for the end of slavery, women’s rights, and education for all reflects her unwavering dedication to social justice.

Through her writings and activism, Forten left a great mark on history, advocating for the rights and freedoms of marginalized communities. Her legacy continues to inspire generations of activists and educators, reminding us of the power of resilience and determination in the face of adversity. As Salem State University pays tribute to Charlotte Forten with the renaming of Charlotte Forten Hall, it affirms its commitment to honoring the legacies of those who have paved the way for progress and equality.


Cover photo: Salem State University Honors First Black Alumna Charlotte Forten with Renaming of Residence Hall / Credit: Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University

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