Angelina Weld Grimké

Angelina Weld Grimké was a prolific biracial author. She was one of the first African American women to have one of her plays performed for the public.

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Grimké was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1880. Her father, Archibald Grimké  was a mixed-race lawyer, and the second African American to graduate from Harvard. Her mother, Sarah Stanley was from the Midwest, and there is little record of her schooling and family.

Grimké was named after her father’s paternal aunt, Angelina Grimké Weld, a white abolitionist and women’s suffrage activist. She took in Archibald following the passing of his father. Grimké’s parents faced harsh criticism due to their interracial marriage, causing her mother to abandon the family when Angelina was just an infant. Her mother would later commit suicide after losing contact with Angelina and her father.

Grimké lived in Washington DC as child, and later attended school in Boston. In 1902, she began working as a teacher at the Armstrong Manual Training School in Washington DC. The school was all-black and part of the segregated system. She later went on to teach at Dunbar High School, another all-black school. While teaching, she took classes at Harvard.

As a writer, Grimké published many poems and short stories. Some of her most famous poems include, “The Eyes of My Regret”, “At April”, “Trees”, and “The Closing Door”. She also wrote one of the first plays to condemn lynching and violence, entitled Rachel. The play was three acts and was written to support the NAACP’s initiative against The Birth of a Nation. The play explored a black family in the North and their different experiences with racial discrimination. She would later write a second non-lynching play, Mara, and a short story entitled “Goldie” which was believed to be about the lynching of Mary Turner.

Grimké retired to New York City at the end of her life. She would live there until her death in 1958.

– Lucy Koukoudian

This profile was created during the 2023-2024 academic year as part of the Song of America Fellowship Program, a project of the Classic Song Research Initiative between the Hampsong Foundation and the University of Michigan, School of Music, Theatre, and Dance

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