African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Angelina Weld Grimké: Author Page

The following biography was written by Amardeep Singh, with contributions by Sarah Thompson. 

Angelina Weld Grimké (1880-1958) was an accomplished poet, playwright, and teacher. She was of mixed Black and white ancestry, with a father (Archibald Grimké) active in the abolitionist movement who was himself of mixed ancestry. Her mother, Sarah Stanley, was white. Angelina W. Grimké was raised partly in Boston and partly in Washington, DC, where she lived for several years with her aunt (Charlotte Forten Grimké) and uncle (Francis Grimké). After graduating from a small college in Boston in 1902, the Boston Normal School of Gymnastics, Grimke began teaching high school English in Washington, DC. She later taught at the Dunbar High School, a school where several other important figures in the Harlem Renaissance also taught. 

Today, Grimké is probably best known for her play, Rachel, which was first performed in 1916 in Washington, DC, and published in 1920. Grimké also published a number of poems in magazines like The Crisis, in the 1910s and 20s, and in 1927, a substantial number of her poems were included in Countee Cullen's important anthology, Caroling Dusk

Angelina Weld Grimke remained unmarried, and biographers have understood from unpublished poems as well as diaries and letters that she may have been attracted to other women. Throughout her life, Grimké’s writings explore themes of love and sexuality, often with a focus on the complexities of romantic relations. She wrote extensively about the torments of inaccessible love, with many of her love poems remaining unpublished, undated, and handwritten. Maureen Honey argues that Grimké was the first African American woman to publish sapphic poetry, as evidenced by feminine pronouns, names, and images in her unpublished work and diaries. Some of her published poems contain nondescript pronouns and express unrequited longing that may be homoerotic in nature (see "Grass Fingers" and "A Mona Lisa" among others). 

The full text of the play Rachel can be found on Project Gutenberg here

Works Cited

Honey, Maureen. Aphrodite’s Daughters: Three Modernist Poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Rutgers        
      University Press, 2016.

 

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