It's the birthday of the poet Angelina Weld Grimké, born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1880, a member of the distinguished biracial Grimké family, some members of which were important in the abolitionist movement and active in civil rights into the twentieth century.
Her father Archibald Grimké, a Harvard Law School graduate, served as the Vice-President of the NAACP and her mother Sarah Stanley was a white woman from a Boston middle-class family. The Stanley’s opposed Sarah’s interracial marriage. Soon after her birth, Angelina’s parents divorced. Angelina lived with her mother until she was seven years old, then was sent to live with her father. She never saw her mother again.

Angelina Weld Grimké maintained a close relationship with her father. She lived a privileged life as a child and was sheltered from direct experiences of racism. She was often cared for in the home of her aunt Angelina Weld, the famous Quaker abolitionist, for whom she was named.
Angelina Weld Grimké was educated at a variety of upper-class, liberal schools, including Carleton Academy in Northfield, Minnesota, and Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Massachusetts; she ultimately graduated from the Boston Normal School of Gymnastics. In 1902 she began teaching in Washington, D.C., first at the Armstrong Manual Training School and then, from 1916, at Dunbar High School.
During her years in Washington, she was part of a coterie of black artists, writers, and scholars and produced some of her best known works. Although her first published poems were written thirty years prior, mainly in newspapers, she was an active writer and activist of the Harlem Renaissance. Grimke wrote essays, short stories, poems and an anti-lynching play called Rachel, performed by an all-black cast in Washington, D.C. in opposition to the D.W. Griffith’s propaganda film Birth of a Nation.
Grimke’s poetry is often about lost love, praise for famous African-Americans, and racial concerns. Her poetry was diverse in style, form, and theme. Some scholars have attributed her many poems about thwarted love and longing to her suppressed identity as a lesbian.
Although she never saw a collection of poems published in her lifetime, she was a regular contributor to The Crisis and Opportunity, and saw her work anthologized in The New Negro, Caroling Dusk, and Negro Poets and Their Poems.
The final years of her life were spent in quiet retirement in New York City, where she died on 10 June 1958 after a long illness.
Here is one of her most famous poems:
When the Green Lies Over the Earth
When the green lies over the earth, my dear,
A mantle of witching grace,
When the smile and the tear of the young child year
Dimple across its face,
And then flee, when the wind all day is sweet
With the breath of growing things,
When the wooing bird lights on restless feet
And chirrups and trills and sings
To his lady-love
In the green above,
Then oh! my dear, when the youth's in the year,
Yours is the face that I long to have near,
Yours is the face, my dear.
But the green is hiding your curls, my dear,
Your curls so shining and sweet;
And the gold-hearted daisies this many a year
Have bloomed and bloomed at your feet,
And the little birds just above your head
With their voices hushed, my dear,
For you have sung and have prayed and have pled
This many, many a year.
And the blossoms fall,
On the garden wall,
And drift like snow on the green below.
But the sharp thorn grows
On the budding rose,
And my heart no more leaps at the sunset glow,
For oh! my dear, when the youth's in the year,
Yours is the face that I long to have near,
Yours is the face, my dear.
It's also the birthday of poet Thylias Moss. Happy Birthday Thylias!

Originally Published: February 27th, 2008

Major Jackson's books of poems are Holding Company (2010, Norton) and Hoops (2006, Norton), both finalists for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature-Poetry, and Leaving Saturn (2002, University of Georgia Press), which was awarded the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for a first book of poems and was a finalist for the National Book...

  1. February 27, 2008
     Mary Meriam

    I love your throat, so fragrant, fair,
    The little pulses beating there;
    Your eye-brows' shy and questioning air;
    I love your shadowed hair.
    I love your flame-touched ivory skin;
    Your little fingers frail and thin;
    Your dimple creeping out and in;
    I love your pointed chin.
    I love the way you move, you rise;
    Your fluttering gestures, just-caught cries;
    I am not sane, I am not wise,
    God! how I love your eyes!
    Angelina Weld Grimké

  2. February 28, 2008

    I have never once even encountered her name. :(
    That is a very sweet poem.