Susie King Taylor landed in the history books by becoming the Army’s first Black nurse, and the first and only Black woman to detail her experiences in the Civil War. Additionally, Taylor is the first Black woman to teach openly at a freedmen’s school in Georgia.
Taylor was born August 6, 1848 into slavery in Liberty County, Ga. At age seven, Taylor was sent by her owner to live in Savannah with her grandmother, Dolly. Dolly secretly enrolled her granddaughter into a pair of schools, of which one was taught by a free Black woman. Slave literacy was outlawed at the time.
Taylor’s education was cut short when Dolly was arrested for singing freedom hymns. Taylor was sent back to her mother in Isle of Wight, Ga. Taylor learned as much as she could on her own, and even had the help of a pair of white youths and playmates, despite it being illegal.
In 1862, a fourteen-year-old Taylor fled to St. Simons Island with several other African-Americans, only to find the region occupied by the Union Army during the heights of the Civil War. Taylor impressed the Union Generals with her ability to read and write, so she was assigned to teach at the freedmen’s school. While at the school, she met Sgt. Edward King of the 33rd Regiment of the U.S. Colored Troops.