Today in History:

Susie King Taylor

Susie King Taylor (Susie Baker) was born into slavery on August 6, 1848, at the Grest Plantation in Liberty County in coastal Georgia where her mother was a domestic servant. 

By age seven, Taylor was allowed to move to Savannah, Georgia, to live with her grandmother, Dolly. Most of her childhood was spent with two of her eight siblings and with Grandmother Dolly, who encouraged Taylor to learn to read and write.

At this time, Georgia had severe restrictions on education for freed and enslaved African Americans. Clandestine schooling was the only way an African American child could get an education in the Antebellum South. Taylor’s grandmother arranged for her to attend two secret schools taught by free African American women and family friends. 

By the time the Civil War broke out in 1861, Taylor was an educated young woman so accomplished that she had surpassed the level of knowledge of her first teachers in Georgia. 

During the Civil War, Taylor's circumstances changed dramatically. In 1862, she escaped from slavery and found refuge with Union forces stationed on St. Simons Island, Georgia. There, she began her remarkable journey as a freedom fighter and educator.

She served the Union Army officially as a "laundress"  She was a nurse, caretaker, educator, and friend to the First South Carolina Volunteer Infantry (later the 33rd U.S. Colored Troops Infantry Regiment). 

Taylor became the first African American woman to openly teach African American soldiers in a regimental school. She dedicated herself to educating and uplifting her fellow Black soldiers, teaching them to read and write despite the challenges and dangers of wartime.

In 1902, she published these experiences in Reminiscences of My Life in Camp, a Civil War memoir told from the singular perspective of an African American woman. She is the only African American woman to publish a memoir of her wartime experiences.