Angelina Weld Grimke


Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists
Biographical Sketch of Angelina Weld Grimke, 1880-1958


Monique Sartor and Alexandra Jaworski
Undergraduates, University of Michigan-Dearborn

Angelina Weld Grimke was born in Boston, Massachusetts on February 27, 1880. During her childhood she lived with her father, Archibald Grimke, who was the second African American to graduate from Harvard Law School, a Republican Party diplomat, and civil rights activist. Her mother, Sarah Stanley, a white middle-class woman, lived apart from the family and committed suicide in 1898. Despite the absence of her mother, a strong female support network surrounded Angelina. Her great aunts Sarah Grimke and Angelina Grimke Weld (her namesake) played a significant role in her upbringing. Angelina also spent her teenage years with her aunt Charlotte Forten Grimke. Charlotte, Sarah, and Angelina Grimke Weld, despite being the white daughters of a Southern plantation owner, joined the nineteenth century abolitionist and women’s rights movements.

Grimke attended grammar schools in Hyde Park, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. from 1887-1894, often the only African American child in her class. Her first writings were published when she was just thirteen years of age. For secondary schooling (1895-1898) Angelina attended Carleton Academy in Northfield, Minnesota, Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, Girls Latin School in Boston, Massachusetts, and Boston Normal School of Gymnastics (which later became Department of Dental Hygiene of Wellesley College) again as one of the only African American students. In 1902, Grimke started her teaching career as a physical education teacher at Armstrong Manual Training School in Washington, D.C. In 1907 Grimke began teaching English at Dunbar High School as well as taking classes at Harvard during her summers. At a young age, Grimke decided not to marry or bear children herself.

Grimke used writing as a platform to make her voice heard. While she committed to specific organizations, Grimke did build intellectual and strategic friendships with Mary Church Terrell and Coralie Franklin Cook who were a part of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and leaders in the African American women’s club movement. In 1916, she responded to the NAACP’s call for African Americans to shed light on their own perspective on race relations in the wake of the 1915 film Birth of a Nation, by penning the stage play Rachel. [LINK] Published in 1920, the play, performed by an all African American cast, included lynchings and harsh depictions of the treatment of African Americans. Grimke also published a number of poems, short stories, and short form nonfiction.

As was the case with Rachel, Grimke’s other published writing often intertwined her interest in anti-racism work and women’s rights. She believed giving women the right to vote would bring issues like lynching and racism to an end. In 1919, Grimke wrote a short story for Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Review called, “The Closing Door.” [LINK] In this piece, Grimke used the tragic story of a young black girl’s rape to advocate for women’s bodily integrity. The homicide of an the story underscored the potential consequences of African American women not having access to birth control.

Heavily identified with the outpouring of African American creative endeavors known as the Harlem Renaissance, Grimke’s writings carried both political and personal messages. Many of her of poems, short stories, and plays paralleled her own life in character or content. Her poems are often suggestive of the intimate same-sex relationships she desired from early in her childhood, but which were discouraged by her much-respected father. Her writings also often alluded to the absence of a motherly relationship, another deeply personal theme.

Grimke retired from teaching at Dunbar in 1926. Shortly after, her father, with whom she was always close, took ill. When he died in 1930, Grinke became a semi-recluse in her small New York apartment where she died June 10, 1985.


Angelina Weld Grimke, accessed online at


Ashe, Albetine. “Lonesome Hearts: Wants Nice Brown” Baltimore Afro-American, Jul 23, 1949: p. B2

Bruce, Dickson D., Jr. “Grimke, Angelina Weld.” Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History 2nd ed. (2006). 953-54.

Cooper, Jeanne. “Backstage: Miffed at Bush's Arts Budget,” Washington Post, (Feb. 1, 1992) p. H2.

Gomez, Jewelle. "El Beso: For Angelina Weld Grimke and Akasha Hull." Callaloo 23:1 (2000): 212-13.

Grimke, Angelina Weld. “The Closing Door,” Birth Control Review 3 (Sept.-Oct. 1919), 10-14, 8-12. [LINK]

Herron, Carolivia. ed. Selected Works of Angelina Weld Grimke. New York: Oxford University Press 1991.

Hester, Michelle. "An Examination of the Relationship Between Race and Gender in an Early Twentieth Century Drama: A Study of Angelina Weld Grimké's Play Rachel." Journal of Negro History 79:2 (1994): 248-56.

Hull, Gloria T. Color, Sex & Poetry: The Women Writers of the Harlem Renaissance. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

Lerner, Gerda. "The Grimke Sisters and the Struggle Against Race Prejudice." Journal of Negro History 48:4 (1963): 277-91.

Lorde, Audre. “I am your sister - Black women organizing across sexualities,” Between Our Selves: Women of Color Newspaper 1:2 (1985), 8.

Phillips, Lindsey. “Creeping Forest and (Dis)Placed Bodies: Relocating Racial Trauma in Angelina Weld Grimke’s “Blackness” and “Goldie”.” Journal of American Studies. 48:2 (2014).

Porter, Dorothy. "Documentation on the Afro-American: Familiar and Less Familiar Sources." African Studies Bulletin 12:3 (1969): 293-303.

Stephanie Y. Evans. "Gender and Research in the African Academy: `Moving Against the Grain’ in the Global Ivory Tower." Black Women, Gender Families 2, no. 2 (2008): 31-52.

Terborg-Penn, Rosalyn. African American Women in the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

Young, Patricia. "Shackled: Angelina Weld Grimke." Women and Language 15.2 (1992): 25

“Angelina W. Grimke, Poet, Ex-Teacher, 78,” New York Times, 11 June 1958, p. 36.

Links to Additionl Biographical Sketches

Who's Who in Colored America

Related Writings in Database

View works by

View works about

Related Works in DuBois Online Correspondence: 3

back to top