because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Susie King Taylor

When the Emancipation Proclamation set slaves free so Black men could join the Union Army and win the Civil War for the northern states, Susie King Taylor became a nurse and went to battle with them. But how did she get an education in the first place? After all, it was against the law to educate a slave in the South at the time and Taylor was born a slave in Liberty County, Georgia.

The way it happened was that Taylor (who was born Susie Baker) was allowed to move to Savannah when she was seven-years-old to live with her grandmother. In Savannah, her grandmother sent her to two different secret schools run by in-your-face Black women. When she outgrew them, two young White people continued to teach her, knowing it was against the law and highly dangerous for them to do so.

When some Union troops found out Taylor could read, they got her to open a Freedman's school on St. Simons Island for a while in 1862. After marrying a Black soldier named King, she traveled with the Army for a few years and, at the end of the war, returned to teaching Black students to read even though her husband had died, leaving her a widow with an orphaned child.

Though she became a domestic servant to a wealthy family in Boston and married for the second time in her thirties, Taylor made the cut as an in-your-face woman because she had the brass to go to secret schools as a child and then pass along what she learned as the best way ever to undermine the White Supremacist system in the U.S. in the mid-1800's. Well, that and the fact that, in her autobiography, she touted her skill as a sharpshooter: "I learned to handle a musket very well while in the regiment, and could shoot straight and often hit the target. I assisted in cleaning the guns and used to fire them off to see if to see if the cartridges were dry...I thought this great fun...[being] able to take a gun all apart and put it together again." Oops! There it is!

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