Teatime with Miranda

If I were to interview Susie King Taylor these are the questions I would ask. I would also call my talk show teatime with Miranda.

SKT= Susie King Taylor and M= Miranda

M: Where are you from Mrs. Taylor?

SKT: Well I was born a slave but freed by my master as a child and went to live with my grandmother in Savannah. My grandmother had been freed by the same master.

M: And how were you educated during a time when Georgia had strict laws against the formal education of African Americans?

SKT: “My brother and I being the two eldest, we were sent to a friend of my grandmother, Mrs. Woodhouse…a free woman… we went in, one at a time, with our books wrapped in paper to prevent the police or white persons from seeing them” After two years, I attended school with a Mrs. Mary Beasley, where I continued until Mar, 1860, when she told my grandmother she had taught me all she knew.” Then my white playmate, Katie O’Connor gave me lessons for about four months every evening, and my grandmother’s landlord’s son gave me a few lessons.

M: How old were you when you got involved with the war?

SKT: I was 14 in 1862 when “my uncle took his family of seven and myself to St. Catherine Island [and] we landed under the protection of the Union fleet.” Then I took charge of a school on St. Simons Island. Not long after I met Captain Trowbridge and became a laundress and a nurse for the First South Carolina Volunteers. I continued to teach reading lessons to the boys at night.

{missionaries from the north provided her with books and the slaves there were freed by the union similar to the port royal experiment}

M: How were the African American troops accepted?

SKT: They weren’t immediately recognized by the war department, and “the first colored troops did not receive any pay for the first 18 months….Finally in 1863 the government decided to give them half pay, but the men would not accept this”

{This relates to the reading in “These Truly are the Brave.” Alexander T. Augusta was the first African American lieutenant colonel, but “White physicians complained to President Lincoln because they did not want to report to a black man (page 43).” Black soldiers did not receive the respect they deserved.}

M: Were they ever given proper monetary compensation for their service?

SKT: Yes, finally in 1864 they were granted full pay and back pay for their time, and in 1872 I got a $100 bounty for my husband’s service.

M: Tell me more about some of the people you worked with.

SKT: Well I worked with Clara Barton to nurse some of our boys, and Fredrick Douglass’ two sons were in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment which was stationed in the same region as my boys.

{It is interesting that Susie King Taylor mentions Fredericks Douglass’ sons and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, because that is also mentioned in “These Truly are the Brave.” Page 80 talks about Lewis Henry Douglass and a letter he wrote home after the battle at Fort Wagner. Susie King Taylor talks about teaching the boys of Douglass’ regiment to read on page 52 and mentions Fort Wagner on page 87.}

M: What did you do after the war?

SKT: I moved back to Savannah and opened up a private school, then I moved to the country and opened up a school there. Then public schools forced me to stop teaching and I found some domestic work. In 1872 I moved up North to Boston, and “in 1886 I helped to organize Corps 67, Women’s Relief Corps” and have continued to be very involved in it.

{During reconstruction public schools were opened for African American children even though their quality was inferior to white public schools}

M: What are your thoughts on the current state of affairs?

SKT: “I sometimes ask myself was the war in vain? Has it brought freedom in the full sense of the word, or has it not made our condition more hopeless? In this land of the free we are burned, tortured, and denied a fair trial, murdered any imaginary wrong conceived in the mind of the negro-hating white man. There is no redress for us from a government that promised to protect all under its flag.”

{Susie King Taylor discusses the rise of Jim Crow and how even though African Americans were no longer enslaved they were still at a great disadvantage and treated poorly. Black codes became Jim Crow Laws. Segregation was also happening. It is sad that blacks still are not treated as equals now in the 21st century.}

M: Wow, so you lived through chattel enslavement, the civil war, reconstruction, and the age of Jim Crow?!

SKT: Yes ma’am. I went from being enslaved myself to being a published author living in Boston.

M: Susie King Taylor’s story is truly remarkable. She has seen more tragic things in her lifetime than many of us ever will, from the horrors of slavery to the horrors of war and the horrors of lynching. She must be one of the bravest humans ever. She even survived three awful boating

incidents. After her first near death experience on a boat, she was not even scared to get back on another boat. Susie King Taylor was incredible. Students should be taught about her and other African American women in schools. She is just as significant if not more significant than Clara Barton. However, I had learned about Clara Barton in primary school, and had never even heard Susie King Taylor’s name before reading her memoir. And that’s the tea !

**All of the Susie King Taylor parts in quotations came word for word from her memoir, “A Black Woman’s Civil War Memories.”

Works Cited

Jimoh, A. Yemisi, and Françoise N. Hamlin. These Truly Are the Brave: an Anthology of African

American Writings on War and Citizenship. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida,


Taylor, Susie King. A Black Woman's Civil War Memories. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener

Publishers, 1988.