Every day this month, the Center for Black Educator Development, in partnership with Phillys7thWard.org and the Education Post, will highlight a Black Educator Hall of Famer. But, don’t forget, e’ry month is Black History Month…February is just the Blackest.
Today, our featured Black Educator Hall of Fame Member is Susie King Taylor.
Susie King Taylor was born Susan Ann Baker in Liberty County, GA on August 6, 1848. The oldest of nine children, she was born into enslavement. Taylor is recognized as being a member of the Gullah Geechee of the coastal lowlands of Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.
The turning point in the life of Taylor came early when her grandmother Dolly Reed was “allowed” to raise Taylor in Savannah. Reed sent Taylor, and her brother living with them also, to underground school to learn reading, writing and math because it was illegal for enslaved Black people to get an education in Georgia, as it was in much of the south.
Taylor would be educated by multiple people under the code of secrecy, which proved important. With her ability to read and write specifically, Taylor was able to protect enslaved Black people to write them passes. But she was also able to save herself through reading Union side propaganda during the Civil War. It led to her freedom.
In April 1862, Susie was able to escape slavery with her uncle and other African Americans who fled to a federal gunboat near Confederate-held Fort Pulaski. She went to live on Union-occupied St. Simons Island off the southern Georgia coast along with hundreds of other formerly enslaved refugees and at only 14 years old, Susie became the first black teacher to openly educate African Americans in Georgia.
Taylor taught up to 40 illiterate children by day and even more adults by night. Off hours she taught the soldiers reading and writing and, according to her memoirs, “…learned to handle a musket very well…and could shoot straight and often hit the target.”
Susie even served as a nurse at a hospital for African American soldiers in Beaumont, South Carolina, where she met and worked with Clara Barton.
In 1866, Susie and her husband Edward, whom she met and married during the Civil War, moved to Savannah at the end of the war; where Susie opened a school for African American children. Sadly however, she had to close the school due to financial troubles as a result of her husband dying and competition from newly opened public schools.
The exceptionalism exemplified in her life can be explained by the divine belief systems cultivated and practiced within her Geechee family and community, her grandmother’s broad social connections across plantations and within towns like Savannah in coastal Georgia, and through her intellect, will, and ability to observe the natural and social world around her.
Susie King Taylor; a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.
For more information on Susie King Taylor, visit the following site.