Archibald Henry Grimke

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated

GrimkÉ, Archibald Henry

August 17, 1849
February 25, 1930

The writer and activist Archibald Henry Grimké was born a slave in Charleston, South Carolina. He was the nephew of the noted abolitionists Sarah Grimké and Angelina Grimké Weld. Receiving some education during his childhood, after Emancipation he attended Lincoln University and, supported by his aunts, Harvard Law School, from which he graduated in 1874. In 1884 he became editor of the Boston Hub, a Republican newspaper. In 1886, disillusioned by the growing indifference of Republican Party to the problems of African Americans and by the party's conservative economic program, Grimké switched allegiances. He soon became the most prominent African-American democrat in Massachusetts.

After 1890, Grimké removed himself from politics and, focusing on scholarship, wrote major biographies of William Lloyd Garrison and Charles Sumner. Then, in 1894, he was appointed consul to the Dominican Republic, where he served until 1898.

Upon his return to the United States, Grimké also returned to writing, and he published widely on racial questions. In 1903, he became president of the leading African-American intellectual organization, American Negro Academy, a post he held until 1919. As an activist he was deeply involved in the debate over the leadership of Booker T. Washington, although, despite a general opposite to Washington's views, he was unwilling to commit himself fully to either side.

But his activism became particularly notable when, in 1913, he became president of the District of Columbia branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The branch was the organization's largest, representing the NAACP on all issues involving federal legislation and policy. As president, Grimké led its efforts into the 1920s, lobbying Congress and federal agencies to inhibit the segregationist policies of Woodrow Wilson's administration, while fighting against discrimination in the Washington community itself. In 1919, in recognition of these efforts and of his lifetime of service defending the rights of African Americans, he received the Spingarn Medal, the NAACP's highest honor.

See also American Negro Academy (ANA); National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Spingarn Medal; Washington, Booker T.


Archibald Henry Grimké Papers. Manuscript Division, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington, D.C.

Bruce, Dickson D., Jr. Archibald Grimké. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993.

dickson d. bruce jr. (1996)

views updated

Archibald Henry Grimké

Archibald Henry Grimké (1849-1930), American lawyer, author, and diplomat, was an ardent champion of equal rights for black people.

Archibald Grimké was born on Aug. 17, 1849, near Charleston, S.C., of Nancy Weston, a slave by birth, and Henry Grimké, a prosperous white planter with liberal tendencies. Grimké entered Lincoln University, Pa., earning his bachelor of arts degree (1870) and master of arts degree (1872). Aided by his white aunts, Sarah and Angelina Grimké, and Angelina's husband, Theodore Weld, he completed Harvard Law School (1874). Grimké entered law practice in Boston with an established firm and met many former abolitionists and reformers. In 1879 he married Sarah E. Stanley and began his career as a civil rights spokesman and author.

From 1883 to 1885 Grimké edited the Hub, a Boston newspaper devoted to the welfare of African Americans. At the invitation of a leading publishing firm he wrote biographies of two antislavery leaders: William Lloyd Garrison, the Abolitionist (1891) and The Life of Charles Sumner, the Scholar in Politics (1892). Meanwhile he was a special columnist for several newspapers and contributed to the Atlantic Monthly.

From 1894 to 1898 Grimké served as U.S. consul to Santo Domingo. Returning to the United States, he lived in Washington, D.C., where he continued to champion civil rights and combat prejudice. In 1899, representing the Colored National League, he wrote an open letter to President William McKinley on behalf of black voters. He became a member of the American Negro Academy almost from its inception in 1897, serving as president from 1903 to 1916.

Throughout this period Grimké published articles and pamphlets concerning black life and history. These included "Right on the Scaffold, or the Martyrs of 1822" (1901), a life of Denmark Vesey, leader of a slave revolt; "Why Disfranchisement Is Bad" (1904), showing the harmful effect of disfranchisement on African Americans, the South, and the nation; "The Ballotless Victim of One Party Governments" (1913), attacking disfranchisement; "The Sex Question and Race Segregation" (1915), a protest against the double standard; "The Ultimate Criminal" (1915), demonstrating the causal relationship between discrimination and crimes committed by African Americans; and "The Shame of America, or the Negro's Case against the Republic" (1924). These are all in the Occasional Papers of the American Negro Academy, reprinted in 1969.

In 1913 Grimké wrote President Woodrow Wilson, protesting segregation of government employees, and in 1916, as national director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), he testified against segregation before the House Committee on Reform in the Civil Service. In 1919 the NAACP awarded him the Spingarn Medal.

Grimké was president of the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association and a member of both the Authors' Club of London and the United States and of the American Social Science Association. He died on Feb. 25, 1930.

Further Reading

Aspects of Grimké's career are discussed in Anna Julia Cooper, Life and Writings of the Grimké Family (2 vols. in 1, 1951), and Gerda Lerner, The Grimké Sisters from South Carolina:Rebels against Slavery (1967). Biographical sketches of Grimké are in Richard Bardolph, The Negro Vanguard (1959), and Wilhelmena S. Robinson, Historical Negro Biographies (1967; 2d ed. 1968). His writings are discussed in Vernon Loggins, The Negro Author:His Development in America to 1900 (1931).

Additional Sources

Bruce, Dickson D., Archibald Grimké:portrait of a black independent, Baton Rouge:Louisiana State University Press, 1993. □

More From

You Might Also Like