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The Story of Suzie King Taylor

“The Story of Suzie King Taylor” is a nonfiction story written by Doreen Rappaport and published in 2002.
Author
Doreen Rappaport
Grade Level

 

A young girl with a red coat looks over her shoulder as she opens a white gate.
 

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.

Source
Copyright © Teaching Tolerance.
Text Dependent Questions
Question
To conceal something means to keep it hidden so others can’t see it. What did Suzie’s grandmother conceal? And why did she need to hide it?
Answer
She concealed two schoolbooks, one for Suzie and one for her brother. The school Suzie and her brother went to was a secret.
Question
Why doesn’t Suzie stop to look at the horses’ pretty manes?
Answer
Her grandmother has taught her never to look at a white person’s property.
Question
How does Suzie feel being in Mrs. Woodhouse’s kitchen compared to walking to school?
Answer
She describes the kitchen as “warm and welcoming.” She feels content there and anxious to learn. Outside, on her way to school she has to worry about not getting in white people’s way, or looking at them or their things or being seen going to school. The outside world is not warm and welcoming.
Question
What are two ways Suzie used her education to help others?
Answer
She forged passes so her grandmother could travel without being questioned. She helped liberated slaves learn to read and write.