Angelina Weld Grimké

1880 –

Angelina Weld Grimké was born in Boston on February 27, 1880. She was the daughter of Archibald Grimké, who had been born a slave in Charleston, South Carolina, and Sarah Stanley Grimké, a white woman and the daughter of an abolitionist. Named after her great-aunt, the abolitionist and suffragist, Angelina Grimké Weld, Grimké grew up in liberal, aristocratic Boston society. She attended the best preparatory schools in Massachusetts, including Cushing Academy and the now defunct Carleton School. She was raised mainly by her father after her mother abandoned her in 1887.

Grimké's first poems appeared in the early 1900s in Colored American Magazine, The Boston Evening Transcript, and The Pilot. Grimké penned her best-known work, the play Rachel, in response to W. E. B. Du Bois’s call for Black theatrical productions. The play, which examined the impact of a lynching on an African American family, was staged in Washington, D.C. in 1916 and published in 1920. It was the first drama penned by an African American and performed by African American actors for a white audience. Grimké next published the short story “The Closing Door” in The Birth Control Review of 1919, which examined themes of lynching and infanticide. Her work also appeared in Harlem Renaissance-era anthologies, including Countee Cullen’s Caroling Dusk (Harper and Brothers, 1927); Charles S. Johnson’s Ebony and Topaz (National Urban League, 1927); Alain Locke’s The New Negro (Atheneum, 1925); and Robert T. Kerlin’s Negro Poets and Their Poems (The Associated Publishers, 1923). Her poetry has experienced a revival in recent decades, with particular attention on her erotic love sonnets addressed to women, such as “Grass Fingers” and “El Beso,” leading to new recognition for Grimké as a lesbian poet. 

Grimké died on June 10, 1958.