Like other African Americans in the mid-1800s‚ Suzie King Taylor’s grandmother‚ Dolly Reed‚ risked jail and beatings to have her loved ones educated at a secret school run by a free Black woman.
The paper crinkles as Grandma wraps the package to conceal its contents. She gives the precious parcel to Suzie and her younger brother‚ then shoos them out the door. Clippety-clop‚ clippety-clop. The streets of Savannah‚ Georgia‚ are crowded with horse-drawn carriages. Suzie longs to look at the horses and their shiny manes‚ but she doesn’t dare. Grandma has taught her never to stare at White people or their property. On the sidewalk a White man brushes past her. She jumps down into the street to get out of his way.
At the corner of Hambersham and Price Streets‚ Suzie and her brother stop. They peer about to be sure that no White people can see them. Suzie’s eyes signal her brother. Go‚ go! Grandma has warned them never to enter Mrs. Woodhouse’s together.
Suzie watches her brother walk down the street. Through the gate. Into the yard. Into the kitchen. She looks around again. No one is watching. She hurries down the street. Mrs. Woodhouse’s kitchen is warm and welcoming. Suzie takes her place on the floor‚ joining thirty other Black children. The paper crinkles as she unwraps the package. Out come two books. One for Suzie‚ one for her brother. They place their books on their laps and look up‚ anxious for Mrs. Woodhouse to begin the reading lesson.
Suzie King Taylor used the skills she learned at Mrs. Woodhouse’s secret school to help others. She forged passes for her grandmother so she could travel freely around Savannah. During the Civil War she taught other newly liberated slaves to read and write.