Susie King Taylor: Nurse, Teacher & Freedom Fighter (Rise. Risk. Remember. Incredible Stories of Courageous Black Women)

Susie King Taylor: Nurse, Teacher & Freedom Fighter (Rise. Risk. Remember. Incredible Stories of Courageous Black Women)
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Release Date
September 26, 2023
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From the acclaimed, New York Times bestselling author of Never Caught and She Came to Slay comes a vibrant middle grade biography of Susie King Taylor, one of the first Black Civil War nurses, in a new series spotlighting Black women who left their mark on history.

A groundbreaking figure in every sense of the word, Susie King Taylor (1848–1912) was one of the first Black nurses during the Civil War, tending to the wounded soldiers of the 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Afterward, she was a key figure in establishing a postbellum educational system for formerly bonded Black people, opening several dedicated schools in Georgia. Taylor was also one of the first Black women to publish her memoirs.

Even as her country was at war with itself, Taylor valiantly fought for the rights of her people and demonstrated true heroism.

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Great Biography of a Health Care Pioneer
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Learning Value
Born in 1848, Susan King was fortunate to be able to stay with her grandmother and not on the Grest Farm near Savannah where her mother worked as an enslaved person. Her grandmother made sure that Susan and her younger brother got an education and were able to read and write, although this was against the law at the time. When the Civil War broke out and came close to the farm, Susan's uncle and aunt decided to flee. The group made their way to find Union troops, and eventually ended up on St. Simons Island where Susan got to work doing laundry, but also teaching. She met Edward Taylor there, and the two eventually married. In 1862, they evacuated the island. Susan continued to work all manner of jobs, and even served as a battlefield nurse. After the war, she lived in Boston, continued to teach, and wrote a memoir of her Civil War experience in 1902. This short memoir is included at the end of Buford and Dunbar's biography, which is told in the first person.

Good Points
One of my favorite series in fourth grade was the Childhood of Famous Americans books, and the beginning of this was strongly reminscent of those. There's a lot of information about the Civil War that will appeal to readers who are interested in that conflict, and a good account of what it was likfe for Blacks who were working to help the Union side. They were not treated fairly, and this is definitely brought up in very effective ways. The information about what King Taylor did after the war is interesting, and having her memoir at the end of the book will save readers from having to locate it elsewhere. I'm always looking for biographies of interesting people who aren't as well known, and this was a perfect example of the sort of book I am seeking!

The biography aligns very closely to the memoir, so I almost wish this had been a completely fictional tale that included more details about life at the time. There's value in having either format, but Buford's Kneel was so good that it would have been interesting to see how she would have written this as fiction.

I'd love to see more biographies like this, and keep hoping for books about Pansy Flemmie Kittrell, the home economist, or Margaret Murray Washington, wife of Booker T. and principal of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. Hand this to readers who enjoyed Kops' Alice Paul and the Fight for Women's Rights, Swaby's Might Moe: The True Story of a Thirteen-Year-Old Running Revolutionary, Kanefield's Susan B. Anthony, and Bailey's Susan La Flesche Picotte.
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