Angelina Grimke's Childhood



Angelina and her sister Sarah were so close and spent so much time together that it is impossible to speak of one and not mention the other. Sarah was born in 1792 and Angelina, 13 years later, in 1805. Most claim that the large age difference is what made them so close (Sarah). When Angelina was born, Sarah begged to be made her godmother. Her mother, exhausted from raising 14 children, allowed her to and Sarah became almost a surrogate mother to baby Angelina. And, in later years, Angelina often referred to her as "mother" in letters (Birney 13). Thus, Sarah had a strong influence over her younger sister.

Sarah's impact was especially evident in Angelina's belief system. Sarah held strong feelings against slavery and, under her influence, Angelina admitted similar convictions. In the beginning, they didn't believe that slavery was sinful, but the treatment of slaves horrified them (Birney 41). One account is given in which Angelina fainted at school upon seeing a slave boy who had been badly beaten (Sarah). Thus, both Angelina and Sarah desired to simply be kind to the slaves. It is said that she often snuck out of her house during the night with oil to doctor the wounds of the slaves who had been whipped (Birney 40). Sarah and Angelina also taught Bible classes to the slaves. Because of the sisters' belief that blacks were equal, they knew that they needed to know about God as much as the next person. They were not allowed to teach the slaves how to read the Bible for themselves, however, because it was against the law in South Carolina. The sisters tried several times, though, and were caught and punished (Sarah). Also, the girls attempted to convince their parents to let the slaves go free. Angelina increased her efforts after Sarah had moved to Philadelphia and their father had died, but she failed. Their mother was determined and the Grimkes continued to own slaves.

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