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Francis James Grimké

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Francis J. Grimké, circa 1902
Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church, once led by Grimké

Francis James Grimké (4 November 1852 – 11 October 1937) was a Presbyterian minister who was prominent in working for equal rights for African Americans. He was active in the Niagara Movement and helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Early life and education

Grimké was the second of three sons: Archibald and John were his brothers, born to Henry Grimké and Nancy Weston, an enslaved woman of European and African descent. After having become a widower, the senior Grimke began a relationship with Weston. It appeared to be a caring one; he moved with her out of the city to his plantation where they and their family would have more privacy, and she was his partner in the house. He and Nancy gave the boys their first lessons in reading and writing.

Henry Grimké was the brother of Sarah and Angelina Grimke, who left the South as they became abolitionists. He had other brothers and sisters who continued to fulfill their roles, as he mostly did, as members of a prominent slaveholding family of Charleston.

Discovery

It was not until years after Henry's death that the Grimké sisters learned about their multiracial nephews. Nancy had died, and they arranged to help the boys leave the South and get educations. Grimké graduated from Lincoln University, PA in 1870, along with his older brother Archibald, who was also a member of the class of 1870.

In December 1878, Grimké married abolitionist and diarist Charlotte Forten. She was 41 and he was about 13 years her junior. In 1880, they had one daughter, Theodora Cornelia, who died as an infant.

Grimké began his ministry at the 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. Except for a few years' sojourn at a church in Jacksonville, Florida, he continued to lead the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. until 1928. Grimké died in 1937, nearly twenty years after Charlotte.

Grimké's elder brother, Archibald Grimké, served as consul to the Dominican Republic from 1894-1898. Archibald's daughter, Angelina Weld Grimké, stayed as a child with Grimké and his wife during the period of her father's service to the Dominican Republic. Angelina later became a teacher, and a prominent writer and abolitionist in her own right.

An enduring quote from Francis Grimké was: "Race prejudice can't be talked down, it must be lived down."

References

 

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