Susie King Taylor (inducted 2020)

Biographical Statement

Susie King Taylor (1848-1912) was born a slave in Savannah, Georgia. She was raised by her grandmother who sent her and one of her brothers to the home of a free woman to learn to read and write. As Taylor explained in her 1902 book, “We went every day with our books wrapped in paper to prevent the police or white persons from seeing them.” During the Civil War, the Union Army initiated the practice of enlisting freed African-Americans. Colonel Thomas W. Higginson of the 33rd  U. S. Colored Troops, directed the chaplain to institute  regimental literacy teaching. Taylor, then a freed woman, was one of the people whom the chaplain engaged in teaching soldiers to read and write. In her biography she wrote: “I taught a great many of the comrades in Company E to read and write when they were off duty, nearly all were anxious to learn. … I was very happy to know my efforts were successful in camp also very grateful for the appreciation of my services. I gave my services willingly for four years and three months without receiving a dollar.” She went on to become the first African American teacher for freed students in the Freedman’s school in Georgia. She taught forty children in day school and numerous adults who came at nights. (Taylor, S. (1902). Reminiscences of my life in camp with the 33rd U. S. Colored Troops, Late 1st South Carolina Volunteers.)