A recent inductee into the 2018 class of the Georgia Women of Achievement, Susie King Taylor accomplished quite a bit in her life, through her commitment to caring for others and her dedication to her craft. Susie was a nurse and this is her story.
Susie was born a slave on a plantation in Georgia in 1848. When she reached 7 years of age, her owner allowed her to go to live with her Grandmother, Dolly, in nearby Savannah. In Dolly, Susie found an advocate for education and she was secretly sent to an illegal school run by a free African American woman.
Susie continued to learn from whomever was available and even had help from two white youths, who were very aware the harsh punishments they could face for violating the law against formally educating slaves. After Dolly was arrested for singing freedom hymns in church, Susie moved back with her mother in Fort Pulaski.
The Civil War was in full swing at this point and Susie and family came under the protection of Union forces. Impressed with Susie’s ability to read and write, they asked her to create a school for freed African Americans there on St. Simons Island. She agreed and became the first black teacher for African American students in Georgia.
While there she would meet her first husband, Edward King. He was an officer in the 33rd US Colored Troops Volunteer unit out of South Carolina. Susie would follow the regiment for three years during the Civil War, functioning primarily as a nurse for the wounded. She also spent time teaching both reading and writing to the soldiers.
After the war, Susie and Edward returned to Savannah where she established a school for freed children. After her husband passed away in a work accident, Susie traveled around and continued to establish schools and teach literacy to former slaves.
In 1870, she traveled to Boston where she met her second husband, Russell Taylor. Susie kept in touch with her fellow veterans as a member of the group, the Grand Army of the Republic. She went on to publish her memoirs, Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops, Late 1st S.C. Volunteers. Susie was the only African American woman to write firsthand about her experiences during the Civil War. She served her regiment, her patients, her friends, as a nurse on the battlefront for 3 years, never receiving any pay for her work.
Read more about Susie King Taylor here.