Susie Taylor

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This article is about the US Army nurse. For the Australian former model, see Suzi Taylor.
Susie King Taylor
Susie King Taylor.jpg
Susie King Taylor
Born Susan Ann Baker
August 6, 1848
Liberty County, Georgia
Died October 6, 1912(1912-10-06) (aged 64)
Resting place Mount Hope Cemetery, Roslindale, Massachusetts
Occupation Army nurse, author, memoirist
Spouse(s) Edward King (?-1866; his death)
Russell L. Taylor (1879-1912)

Susie King Taylor (August 6, 1848 – October 6, 1912) was the first Black Army nurse. She tended to an all Black army troop named the First South Carolina Volunteers, 33rd Regiment, where her husband served, for four years during the Civil War. Despite her service, like many African American nurses, she was never paid for her work.[1] As the author of Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops, Late 1st S.C. Volunteers, she was the only African American woman to publish a memoir of her wartime experiences. She was also the first African American to teach openly in a school for former slaves in Georgia. At this school in Savannah, Georgia she taught children during the day and adults at night.[2]


Susie King Taylor was born a slave at a plantation in Liberty County, Georgia on August 6, 1848, as Susan Ann Baker. When she was about seven years old, her owner allowed her to go to Savannah to live with her grandmother, Dolly. Taylor's admiration for women may have stemmed from her close relationship with Dolly. Despite Georgia's harsh laws against the formal education of African Americans, Dolly, with whom Taylor lived for much of her childhood, supported Taylor's education by sending her to an illegal school run by a free African American woman, Mrs. Woodhouse. After learning all she could from Mrs. Woodhouse, Taylor continued her education under the tutelage of various "teachers", both white and black, including playmates, and the son of her grandmother's landlord. From them she gained the rudiments of literacy, then extended her education with the help of two white youths, both of whom knowingly violated law and custom. Her education ended when she was forced to return to her mother on the Isle of Wight after Dolly was arrested at a suburban church meeting for singing freedom hymns. Taylor had to move back with her mother in Fort Pulaski but union took the fort not long after .Taylor fled with her uncle and his family to St. Catherine Island, where they received Union protection and a transfer to St. Simons Island. Taylor impressed the commanding officers with her ability to read and write and was offered a position running a school for children and adults on the island.

In April 1862, Susie Baker and many other African Americans fled to St. Simons Island, occupied at the time by Union forces. Within days her educational advantages came to the attention of army officers, who offered to obtain books for her if she would organize a school. She thereby became the first black teacher for freed African American students to work in a freely operating freedmen's school in Georgia. She taught forty children in day school and "a number of adults who came to me nights, all of them so eager to learn to read, to read above anything else." She taught there until October 1862, when the island was evacuated.

While at the school on St. Simons Island, Baker married Edward King, a black noncommissioned officer in the First South Carolina Volunteers of African Descent (later reflagged as 33rd United States Colored Troops 8 February 1864 which was disbanded at Fort Wagner in 1866). For three years she moved with her husband's and brothers' regiment, serving as nurse and laundress, and teaching many of the black soldiers to read and write during their off-duty hours. In 1866 she and Edward returned to Savannah, where she established a school for the freed children. Edward King died in September 1866, a few months before the birth of their first child. There are few details about his death but scholars have noted that he died in a work-related accident at the pier unloading ships. Also around this time Taylor was forced to close her school when a free school opened nearby.[3] In 1867 she returned to her native Liberty County to establish another school. In 1868 she again relocated to Savannah, where she continued teaching freedmen for another year and supported herself through small tuition charges, never receiving aid from the northern freedmen's aid organizations.

In the 1870s King traveled to Boston as a domestic servant of a wealthy white family. While there she met Russell L. Taylor, also a native of Georgia. She returned home to Liberty County to marry Taylor on April 20, 1879.[4] She remained in Boston for the rest of her life, returning to the South only occasionally. After a trip to Louisiana in the 1890s to care for a dying son, she wrote her Reminiscences, which were privately published in 1902. She died ten years later. She is buried next to her second husband at Mount Hope Cemetery in Roslindale, Massachusetts.


  1. ^ Ayubu, Kani. "10 Facts About Susie King Taylor: 1st Black Nurse". Black Art Depot. Retrieved 4 December 2014. 
  2. ^ Ayubu, Kani. "10 Facts About Susie King Taylor: 1st Black Nurse". Black Art Depot. Retrieved 4 December 2014. 
  3. ^ "Susie King Taylor, b. 1848 Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops Late 1st S. C. Volunteers Boston: The author, 1902.". 
  4. ^ "Georgia Marriages, 1808-1967", index, FamilySearch ( accessed 7 June 2012, Russell Taylor

Further reading[edit]

  • Robert C. Morris, Reading, 'Riting, and Reconstruction: The Education of Freedmen in the South, 1861-1870 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981).
  • King, Stewart, "Taylor, Susie Baker King" in Encyclopedia of Free Blacks & People of Color in the Americas, (New York: Facts on File 2012), 762-763.
  • Taylor, Susie King, Reminiscences of My Life in Camp, in Collected Black Women's narratives, edited by Anthony Barthelemy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

External links[edit]