15 June 2015

Every Hero Has a Story: Susie King Taylor

This year the theme for the Library system's Summer Reading programs is "Every Hero Has a Story." Our Youth Services personnel are emphasizing superheroes and everyday heroes in our community (fire fighters, police, emergency response personnel, etc.) through programs and fun events. (Calendar).  Because our responsibility is local history, I am going to highlight just a few of the historical everyday heroes in Beaufort District's past in posts here through July 17th.

An unsung heroine who confronted the injustice surrounding her was Susie King Taylor.  Taylor served the 33rd USCT [the United States Colored Troops within the Union Army raised locally] as a nurse and a teacher. She did so without payment. She taught and nursed here in Beaufort among the freedmen being treated in the Contraband hospitals.

She wrote this in Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops, Late 1st S. C. Volunteers:

"In this 'land of the free' we are burned, tortured, and denied a fair trial, murdered for any imaginary wrong conceived in the brain of the negro-hating white man. There is no redress for us from a government which promised to protect all under its flag. It seems a mystery to me. They say, 'One flag, one nation, one country indivisible.' Is this true? Can we say this truthfully, when one race is allowed to burn, hang, and inflict the most horrible torture weekly, monthly, on another? No, we cannot sing 'My country, 'tis of thee, Sweet land of Liberty'! It is hollow mockery. The Southland laws are all on the side of the white, and they do just as they like to the negro, whether in the right or not... I do not uphold my race when they do wrong. They ought to be punished, but the innocent are made to suffer as well as the guilty, and I hope the time will hasten when it will be stopped forever ... I hope the day is not far distant when the two races will reside in peace in the Southland, and we will sing with sincere and truthful hearts, 'My country, 'tis of thee, Sweet land of Liberty, of thee I sing.'"

You can read the electronic version of this memoir within the "Documenting the American South" website hosted by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill by clicking on http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/taylorsu/taylorsu.html.

The BDC has printed copies of her memoirs in two forms:
SC 973.7 TAY Reminiscences of My Life in Camp, Arno Press and the New York Times, 1968
SC 973.7 TAY A Black Woman's Civil War Memoirs, edited by Patricia W. Romero with a new introduction by Willie Lee Rose, Markus Wiener Publishing, 1988.

If you want to introduce your children to important figures in Beaufort District History, we suggest The Diary of Susie King Taylor, Civil War Nurse. This is an abridged version of her memoirs edited and illustrated for children. You can find it in our children's biography sections at Beaufort Branch and Bluffton Branch libraries, call number: J B TAYLOR.

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