An early feminist's journey from slave-holding Episcopalian to radical Quaker pacifist
The diary that Angelina Grimké (1805–1879) kept from 1828 through 1835 offers a window into the spiritual struggles and personal evolution of a woman who would become one of the nation's most fervent abolitionists. A native of Charleston, South Carolina, and an heir to a family enterprise dependent on slave labor, Grimké was an unlikely supporter of emancipation. Only after years of inner turmoil did she leave the South to join her sister Sarah in the crusade against slavery. While Grimké's public persona has been widely studied, the private spiritual and intellectual journey that preceded her public career and pushed her to the forefront of the abolitionist movement is chronicled for the first time in Walking by Faith.
When Grimké began this diary in January 1828, uncertainty about her place in the world and her life's work occupied her thoughts. For the next seven years she recorded her most intimate concerns. Her diary entries follow her shift in religious affiliation from Episcopalian to Presbyterian to Quaker; her changing views on abolition; her conclusion that living as a Quaker in Charleston would be impossible; and her decision to establish an existence independent of her family. An excellent example of the confessional diary, usually associated with New Englanders, Grimké's writings offer a psychological and spiritual self-portrait that prefigures the image later seen by the world.
Editor Charles Wilbanks, in his introduction to the volume, considers how Grimké's private persona informs our understanding of her public rhetoric. Suggesting that it is not coincidental that her diary ends just as her public life begins, he contends that the construction of her journal provided the necessary bridge from the intuitive to the rational and from the contemplative to the active.
Charles Wilbanks is the director of the speech communication program at the University of South Carolina. His research and teaching emphasis is American public address, the history of rhetoric, and argumentation. Most recently he has focused on nineteenth-century reform rhetoric, abolitionists, and the abolition movement. Wilbanks has also published in the areas of the history of rhetorical theory and argumentation. He lives in Columbia.
"The extraordinary achievements of the Sarah and Angelina Grimké, sisters from South Carolina who struggled for women's rights and the abolition of slavery, are well known to historians. Now, for the first time, we have the remarkable diary of Angelina Grimké during her early years in Charleston. The diary reveals how she struggled with her conscience and with her family to make the transition from slave owner to abolitionist. Readers are indebted to Charles Wilbanks, the editor of the volume, and Carol Bleser, the series editor, for pushing the boundaries of women's southern documentary history back to the second quarter of the nineteenth century."—Loren Schweninger, Elizabeth Rosenthal Excellence Professor, University of North Carolina at Greensboro