Angelina hails from a prominent biracial family with a rich legacy of anti-racism. She studied gymnastics at Boston Normal School of Gymnastics before enrolling in summer courses at Harvard University.
She and Sarah Grimke were among the first women to denounce slavery publicly, defying gender norms through their activism. Together, they imagined an America free of racism and that promoted racial equality.
Angelina Emily Grimke Weld
Angelina Emily Grimke Weld was an award-winning author, speaker, and women’s rights activist from Boston’s biracial family that included prominent abolitionists, such as her mother being white while his father being the son of a slave owner. Weld was active with both the American Anti-Slavery Society and the Philadelphia Female Association while writing several best-selling books on women’s issues.
She married fellow abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld and moved to New Jersey in 1838, continuing her writing and supporting abolitionist causes. With Sarah as their speaker partner, Angelina began appearing at conventions held across the North to speak out against slavery; mentored by Theodore Weld, he taught them public speaking techniques, initially speaking exclusively to all-female audiences until becoming known for attracting mixed crowds that upset some traditionalists; her willingness to challenge gender barriers enabled Angelina to understand how social restrictions were embedded deep within slavery’s systemic foundation and make sense of its complexity.
In 1829, she converted to Quakerism due to its antislavery beliefs, prompting a break with her Presbyterian church’s policy of encouraging Christian slaveholders to adopt paternalism when treating slaves. She began publicly opposing slavery, and her strong abolitionist views led her into disagree with Society of Friends members.
Though publicly active, Angelina found herself struggling financially. Although she worked as a teacher, her income wasn’t enough to meet her needs, so she supplemented it by boarding children and accepting boarders as additional earnings sources. Although she hoped to attend Hartford Female Seminary – established and run by Catharine Beecher, who championed women’s roles – unfortunately, her Quaker elders denied permission for her to enroll there.
Though Angelina did not identify as being lesbian, her writings often alluded to lesbian eroticism and made references to the sexual preferences of her sisters. According to Gerda Lerner’s biography of Angelina, she was naturally curious and self-assured. She refused to submit to the superior judgment of men or accept that being female meant being inferior, making her one of the leading figures of her day. Through abolitionist activities and contributing to social movements, including women’s rights movements, she became one of the most visible figures around. On June 10, 1958, in New York City, she passed away, leaving behind an inspiration that remains relevant today – including the Grimke Center for Abolition Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, which serves as her legacy and is committed to research and education on women abolitionists in history. It also strives to advance lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality. Their website contains information on the Grimke sisters’ lives as abolitionist activists, as well as archive materials, bibliographies, and links to other resources.
Angelina Weld Grimke
Angelina Weld Grimke was an American playwright, poet, and educator best known for her works written before and during the Harlem Renaissance era. Born into a biracial family of abolitionists and civil rights activists – father Archibald Grimke graduated as the only second Black person from Harvard Law School while her mother Sarah Stanley came from an upper-middle class European origin family – Angelina’s work focused heavily on themes of racism and injustice and danger – an article which was prevalent within her poetry and plays.
Angelina graduated from Boston Normal School of Gymnastics in 1902 and taught English at Armstrong Manual Training School, supplementing her education by taking summer courses at Harvard University. Additionally, her essays, short stories, and poems appeared in a number of periodicals, such as NAACP Crisis magazine and Margaret Sanger’s birth control publication The New Negro.
Angelina and her sister Sarah joined the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, affiliated with the American Anti-Slavery Society, in 1835. Together, they traveled and lectured widely, writing antislavery pamphlets such as “American Slavery As It Is.” Additionally, Angelina and Sarah helped establish the first women’s rights convention in 1852.
The Grimke sisters were staunch supporters of the Union during the American Civil War, seeing it as an avenue toward abolishing slavery. Although their health began deteriorating as they aged, they continued to support abolitionism into old age. Later, they relocated to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, where they opened a boarding school and taught, also taking in two mixed-race nephews who were children of their brother’s slave relationship.
Akasha Gloria Hull has suggested that Grimke was a lesbian writer living at an age when it was considered unacceptable for women to write gay-related material. Although her evidence is circumstantial, she maintains that Grimke’s poems and diaries contain sexual inferences and references to women’s bodies that make inferences about his sexuality or companionship as prominent themes of his writings. Grimke documented her love affair with Emily Bront in her diaries; both women were partners in the antislavery movement but were also known for being intimate romantically. They were married and divorced, yet remained close throughout their lives. After their deaths, their children also took up activism – founding the Angelina Weld Foundation to carry on the Grimke sisters’ legacy of activism. The organization continues to support abolition and women’s rights. Their foundation has offered several scholarships and fellowships for future abolitionists; additionally, a prize named after their sisters is presented annually for women who have shown outstanding courage against slavery or racism.
Angelina Grimke Weld
Angelina Grimke Weld (1805-1879) was an 18th-century American abolitionist, women’s rights activist, writer, teacher, and orator who came from an ancestry including both slaveholders and abolitionists. She is known for her efforts supporting both abolitionism and women’s rights.
At age 19, Sarah Moore Grimke joined forces with Sarah Moore Grimke, another antislavery activist, to form one of the first teams of female antislavery advocates to speak publicly against slavery during a time when such activities were seen as scandalous and even dangerous. They received encouragement and mentorship from Theodore Dwight Weld, who encouraged their work as well.
The Grimke sisters traveled widely, lecturing and meeting audiences to support abolitionism. However, they became highly controversial figures who frequently spoke out against slavery before male audiences; some considered this degrading for women speaking out publicly against slavery at this time. Due to divisions over utopian/anarchist withdrawal vs political action positions within the movement in 1840, two organizations emerged. Weld and his daughters joined one side, but eventually, their commitments began interfering with family life obligations.
At 33 years old, Angelina Grimke Weld became the first female witness at a legislative committee meeting. Together with her sister Sarah, they also wrote American Slavery As It Is, which used evidence from Southern newspapers to expose its horrors while emphasizing how Northerners must purify themselves before seeking to convert Southerners. While their book received great reception, their subsequent lectures caused much more tremendous uproar than its text alone.
When they spoke in Philadelphia, a mob of Northern whites protested their presence with shouts of insults and rocks being thrown. To restore order, the mayor canceled the convention; when this failed, however, two sisters from Missouri remained calm by insistence they were speaking against racism as well as abolition; further angering the mob who stormed into the building, breaking windows before storming out; police were powerless to stop them, leading them to destroy it themselves.
Angelina and Sarah chose to dedicate themselves to teaching, writing, and supporting abolitionist causes instead of giving public speeches. Their family grew to include three children, and they focused on proving they could live without slaves in the home. They opened a school and took in boarders. Both women were active members of their church (Quakers); however, when Angelina married Weld in 1839, the church dismissed her membership; nevertheless, she continued writing and advocating abolitionist causes until her death on October 26, 1879, and is interred in Arlington National Cemetery.