The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts on March 10, 1968 · 358
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The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts · 358

Boston, Massachusetts
Issue Date:
Sunday, March 10, 1968
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ISelbells (spsmnQsG sHsawesY By Laurence L Winship TP .1 HE Harvard Law School does not keep a record of the color of the skins of its graduates, so that no one seems to be able to tell us whether Archibald Grimke of the class of 1874 was the first Negro to be graduated from that distinguished institution. But, thanks to a book just published in Boston, everyone should now know that he was one of the Law School's most unusual graduates. The story starts back in the 1830s, at a time iw , when the Grimke (pronounced Grim-kay) family of Charleston, S.C., was a patrician part of that proud Southern city. In the family were two spirited daughters, Sarah and Angelina. In their teens, the girls grew more and more troubled about the lot of the many slaves owned by the family, on its plantation and in its city home. It troubled the girls that slaves were severely flogged when they were lax at their labors; and the girls were troubled by such other things as having slaves stationed outside the bedroom door all night, in case, one of the family wanted a window lowered. Because they could not abide these time-honored customs of their society, the Grimke girls were regarded as odd sticks. It came to pass that the girls' father, Judge John Faucheraud Grimke, was taken seriously ill and was sent to Philadelphia for surgery. His elder daughter Sarah went along to help him on the trip. The father died and the sorrowing daughter was comforted in the home of a Philadelphia friend. Sarah found herself , for the first time, among people who felt as she did about slavery, and she sent for her lively young sister Angelina to join her in Philadelphia. To the horror of their Episcopalian family in Charleston the girls joined the Quaker sect; and, to the additional horror of the family, the girls took up with Northern abolitionists, who, in the 1830s, were already becoming vocal. (The girls, in time, became disillusioned with Quakers, when they saw that Negro Quakers were segregated in separate pews in the Philadelphia meeting house.) The whole extraordinary story of these two daughters of the South is told in thoughtful, moving and restrained manner by Gerda Lerner in her book, "The Grimke Sisters 'from South Carolina; Rebels Against Slavery," now published by Houghton Mifflin Co. OnCE they were settled in the North, the sisters began speaking in public meetings, an other outrageous thing for properly brought up Southern girls to do. Angelina, the more fiery of the two, wrote a letter to an abolitionist paper, describing slavery as she knew it, better than any Northern person could imagine it Her letter brought immediate fame, and the sisters were in demand as speakers throughout the North, espe- PAGE 52 cially in New Englandwhere the abolitionists were heating up fast. Many New Englanders, however, had no patience with abolitionists, or with any women who spoke in public on any public questions. This was a right reserved for men. In some Massachusetts towns, the Grimke sisters were not allowed to speak, even in churches. So they spoke in barns. Angelina, after considering the matter carefully, married Theodore Weld, a stalwart abolitionist, and he supported the sisters in all their works. For a time the sisters taught in a school of girls in Lexington, and there it was that their story comes to its climax. A.NGELINA read in an abolitionist paper about a fine address which had been delivered by one Archibald Grimke, a student at Lincoln University, a Negro university near Philadelphia. Angelina promptly wrote to the young stu- ' dent and asked if, by chance, he had been a slave owned by one of her brothers. Archibald wrote back to Angelina and told her that his father was Angelina's brother Henry, and that his mother was Nancy Weston, a slave in the Grimke household. These letters are among the most remarkable in the history of American family correspondence, and they stand recorded in Howard University of Washington, D.C., a Negro college of distinction. ; Here are the letters: ANGELINA TO ARCHIBALD GRIMKE, Feb. 15, 1868: "In a recent number of the Anti-Slavery Standard I saw a notice of a meeting at Lincoln University of a Literary Society at which a young . gentleman of the name of Grimke deliver'd an address. My maiden name was Grimke. I am the youngest sister of Dr. John Grimke of So Carolina, & as this name is a very uncommon one it has occurred to me that you had been probably the slave of one of my brothers & I feel a great desire to know all about you. "My Sister Sarah & myself have long been interested in the Anti-Slavery cause, & left Charleston nearly 40 years ago, because we could not endure to live in the midst of the oppressions of Slavery. Will you therefore be so kind as to tell us who you are, whether you have any brothers & sisters who your parents were etc etc ARCHIBALD'S REPLY: "Dear Madam: "I am the son of Henry Grimke a brother of Dr. John Grimke and (who is) therefore your brother. Of course you know more about my father than I do, suffice it to say he was a lawyer and was married to a Miss Simons . . . and she died leaving three children viz. Henrietta, Sarah Grimke - jr f , -.'. ; i i '"'A ' ' i Archibald Grimke as student Montague, and Thomas. After her death he took my mother, who was his slave and his children's nurse; her name is Nancy Weston. I dont think you know her, but your sister Miss Ann Grimke knows her, I heard her speak of you ladies often, especially Miss Ann. By my mother he had three children also, viz. Archibald which is my name, and Francis and John. He died about fifteen years ago, leaving my mother, with two children and in a pregnant state, for John was born two mos. after he died, in the care of his son, Mr. E. M. Grimke (Montague) in his own words, as I heard, "I leave Nancy and her two children to be treated as members of the family." .A.NGELINA soon learned that Archibald and . his younger brother Francis had been sent by a church society in Charleston to be educated in the North; and she immediately responded to Archibald's letter, as follows: "Dear young friends, I cannot express the mingled emotions with which I perused your deeply interesting and touching letter. The facts disclosed were no surprise to me. Indeed had I not suspected that you might be my nephews, I should probably not have addressed you. . . . I will not dwell on the past let that all go it cannot be altered our work is in the present. I am glad you have taken the name of Grimke it was once, one of the noblest names of Carolina." Angelina set off to Philadelphia to get acquainted with her Negro nephew, and stayed to see him graduate from Lincoln University. The sisters saw to it that the young man stayed on for two years more to get his master's degree at Lincoln. To raise money for the nephew's further education, older sister Sarah wrote a novel about the marriage of an octoroon to a white man. The book did not sell, because "the subject matter was considered objectionable." Since lawyers were in the tradition of the Grimke family, the young ladies were deter- BOSTON SUNDAY GLOBE. MARCH . 1968 n

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