After his death, she returned to Boston to perform her duties at Branch #67 and to do light domestic work. On April 25, when the Spanish-American War broke out, the corps sent care packages, but her typical enthusiasm for civic service was not there. The black Boston newspapers were reporting on the racial discrimination by the U.S. military toward its brown allies in Cuba, and this made her blood curdle. At the beginning of August that brief conflict was almost over. But on August 6 Susie King Taylor turned 50 years old, and set out to write her story. The years had asked so many questions, and now she would take four years to answer those questions on her own terms. She “unrabble e mout bout waat Afrikan ‘Omen fa do aat da tyme ob Big Shoot en da tribulayshun ob de Afrikan churn in dis Nayshon en de hole worl“; that is, she talked about what black women did during the Civil War and the struggles of Africa’s children in the United States and around the world.
Susie King Taylor (1848-1912) was born in Liberty County, Georgia in 1848. Her mother was a house servant to a wealthy planter family, who allowed her to send her oldest children to live with her mother in Savannah. In Savannah she learned to read and write, and in the spring of 1862, in her early teens, escaped to Union forces occupying the Sea Islands of Georgia. With the support of Federal officers, she organized a school of freed slave children, and taught adults in the evening. While there, she met and married Edward King, a sergeant in the First South Carolina Volunteer Infantry (later the 33rd U.S. Colored Troops), one of the first African-American regiments to see military service, even before the U.S. government officially authorized the recruitment of black regiments.
This week, guest columnist HERMINA GLASS-HILL, a public historian, explores the transformation of Susie King Taylor, a Civil War nurse, into an early social justice activist and racial uplift advocate.
Susie King Taylor landed in the history books by becoming the Army’s first Black nurse, and the first and only Black woman to detail her experiences in the Civil War. Additionally, Taylor is the first Black woman to teach openly at a freedmen’s school in Georgia.