Book Cover of Archibald Grimké


Lifetime: 1849 - 1930 Passed: ≈ 94 years ago


Lawyer, Journalist, Diplomat


United States

Archibald Grimké

Archibald Henry Grimké was an American lawyer, intellectual, journalist, diplomat and community leader in the 19th and early 20th centuries. He graduated from freedmen's schools, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, and Harvard Law School and served as American Consul to the Dominican Republic from 1894 to 1898. He was an activist for rights for blacks, working in Boston and Washington, D.C. He was a national vice-president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), as well as president of its Washington, D.C. branch.

Grimké was born into slavery near Charleston, South Carolina, in 1849. He was the eldest of three sons of Nancy Weston, who was also born into slavery as the daughter of an enslaved African or African-American female, and her white owner Henry W. Grimké, a widower. Henry acknowledged his sons, although he did not manumit (free) them, or make the rest of his family aware of their existence. Archibald's brothers were Francis and John. Henry was a member of a prominent, large slaveholding family in Charleston. His father and relatives were planters and active in political and social circles.

After becoming a widower, Henry moved with Weston to his plantation outside of Charleston. He was a father to his sons, teaching them and Nancy to read and write. In 1852, as he was dying, Henry willed Nancy, who was pregnant with their third child, and their two sons Archibald and Francis to his legal (white) son and heir Montague Grimké, whose mother was Henry's deceased wife. He directed that they "be treated as members of the family," but Montague never provided well for them.

Henry's sister Eliza, executor of his will, brought the family to Charleston, but she did not aid them financially. Nancy Weston took in laundry and did other work; when the boys were old enough, they attended a public school with free blacks. In 1860 Montague "claimed them as slaves," bringing the boys into his home as servants. Later he hired out both Archibald and Francis. After Francis rebelled, Montague Grimké sold him. Archibald ran away and hid for two years with relatives until after the end of the Civil War.

After the American Civil War ended, the three Grimké boys attended freedmen's schools, where their talents were recognized by the teachers. They gained support to send Archibald and Francis to the North. They studied at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, established for the education of blacks.

After getting established with his law practice in Boston, Massachusetts, Grimké met and married Sarah Stanley, a white woman from the Midwest. They had a daughter, Angelina Weld Grimké, born in 1880. They separated while their daughter was young, and Stanley returned with Angelina to the Midwest when the girl was three. When Angelina was seven, Stanley started working. She brought Angelina back to Archibald in Boston. The couple never reconciled, and Stanley never saw her daughter again; she committed suicide by poisoning in 1898.

In 1894, Grimké was appointed consul to the Dominican Republic. While he held this position, his daughter Angelina lived for years with his brother Francis and his wife Charlotte in Washington, D.C., where Francis was minister of the 15th Street Presbyterian Church.

After graduating from school, Angelina became a teacher and writer. Her essays and poetry were published by The Crisis of the NAACP. In 1916, she wrote the play Rachel, which addressed lynching, in response to a call by the NAACP for works to protest the controversial film The Birth of a Nation. It is one of the first plays by an African American considered to be part of the Harlem Renaissance. In addition, she wrote poetry, some of which is now considered the first lesbian work by an African American.

Books by Archibald Grimké

William Lloyd Garrison, the Abolitionist Cover image

William Lloyd Garrison, the Abolitionist

History Autobiography Civil War Bravery

"The author of this volume desires . . . to say . . . that it is his earnest hope that this record of a hero may be an aid to brave and true living in the Republic, so that the problems knocking at its door for solution may find the heads, the hands,...

Charles Sumner, The Scholar in Politics Cover image

Charles Sumner, The Scholar in Politics

History Political Science Biography
Power Equality Politics Autobiography Influential Justice Journey Life Betrayal Speeches

In the realm of American politics, one man dared to challenge the status quo, wielding intellect and knowledge as his most potent weapons. Enter the world of Charles Sumner, The Scholar in Politics, a riveting biography penned by the brilliant Archib...