I only recently heard about the writer Angelina Weld Grimké (1880-1958), a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance. She was mentioned by Kay Bourne in one of the events she and her collaborator, the photographer Craig Bailey, are doing around the Boston area about the local history of Black artists. Kay mentioned Angelina Weld Grimké at a celebration of LGBT Black theater people in honor of The Theater Offensive.
Grimké wrote with gut-wrenching intensity about lynching and racism and Black families. Her famous play Rachel (1916) was Grimké’s response to the call by the NAACP for work that would counter the racism of D. W. Griffith's 1915 film, The Birth of a Nation (1915).
I read her amazing short story “The Closing Door,” in the thick collection Black like us: a century of lesbian, gay and bisexual African American fiction, edited by Devon W. Carbado, Dwight A. McBride, and Donald Weise. This story knocked me on my ass. The characters are drawn with a humanity that makes them seem present in the room, not the least Agnes, the anchor of everyone else’s feelings. When one of her brothers arrives from the South with desperate news of another brother, Agnes is catapulted into a terrifying depression. The range of perspectives inside this one home is monumental. And the ending is a weighty comment on the bittersweet complexity of motherhood within an oppressive Jim Crow environment.
Because I have not yet read much of her work, this post will necessarily be short. I write to share in the off chance that, like me, Angelina Weld Grimké is missing from your shelves. Work of such power and import may be something you want to experience.