Thursday, June 25, 2009

William Lloyd Garrison, always getting people in trouble

This Sunday at 5 pm, Susan Lenoe and Lani Petersen from Andover perform "The Grimké Sisters, Turning the World Upside Down" at the Rocky Hill Meeting House on Portsmouth Street in Amesbury (map; a freewill offering to benefit local food pantries will be taken, according to the Newburyport Daily News).

The sisters, Angelina and Sarah, grew up in a wealthy South Carolina slave-owning family, but fought against it from an early age. Sarah often told the story that she was so upset at age five at seeing a family slave whipped that she tried to run away to a place where slavery didn't exist.

From the Newburyport Daily News:

Angelina herself was thrust into the spotlight of the abolitionist movement by William Lloyd Garrison who, as publisher of The Liberator in Newburyport, mistakenly published a letter from Angelina that was meant to be private correspondence.

In her letter, she urged the passionate newspaperman Garrison to continue his fight against slavery, stating, "The ground upon which you stand is holy ground. Never, never surrender it ... if you surrender it, the hope of the slave is extinguished."

While the letter resulted in the sisters' being driven from their communities, it also thrust them into the national spotlight, prompting their trip to the North and setting the course of their destinies.

The two ended up in Massachusetts, with Angelina being the first woman to address the state legislature and skillfully debating slavery supporters in Amesbury.

Angelina and Sarah's connection to the NSLT extends beyond Garrison. Their nephew Francis Grimké eventually married Salem's Charlotte Forten, who was the first black woman to teach white children at the integrated Epps Grammar School in the 1860s and who wrote extensively about her experiences teaching the Gullah-speaking children of freed slaves on St. Helena Island, South Carolina.

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