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Fri, 02.27.1880

Angelina Weld Grimke, teacher and a first for the Black stage

Angelina Grimke

*On this date we recall the birth in 1880 of Angelina Weld Grimke. She was a lesbian African American poet, playwright, and author of first staged play by an African American.

Angelina Weld Grimke was the daughter of Archibald and Sarah Grimke in Boston. Her father, the son of a slave, was a lawyer and the executive director of the NAACP. Grimke's mother was white. Grimke attended several elite private schools, and graduated from the Boston Normal School of Gymnastics in 1902. Most of her writing was done over the next 25 years, which she spent teaching English in Washington, D.C.

The NAACP produced her best-known work, the play Rachel, in March 1916. Rachel was the first play by an African American that was meant to be staged (in contrast to earlier costume dramas which were simply read aloud). Both Rachel and Grimke's second play dealt with themes of racial injustice. Grimke's poetry was included in such works as Alain Locke's The New Negro and Countee Cullen's Caroling Dusk.

Her poetry dealt with more conventional romantic themes, often marked with frequent images of frustration and isolation. Recent scholarship has revealed Grimke's unpublished lesbian poems and letters; she did not feel free to live openly as a gay woman during her lifetime. Grimke spent the end of her life living alone in New York City.

Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York
ISBN 0-926019-61-9

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