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History conference hosts birthday party for ex-slave
Susie King Taylor

The Susie King Taylor Women’s Institute and Ecology Center, a Georgia-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting public education programs that highlight the history and achievements of literate, ex-slave Susie King Taylor, will host a birthday party in honor of the 171-year old Civil War teacher and nurse. The event is slated for Aug. 9-11 during the center’s 3-day annual Mami Wata Rising™ International Conference. 

The conference, “Slavery, Geechee Maroon Resistance, and the 33rd United States Colored Troops,” will take place at Midway First Presbyterian Church located at 672 N. Coastal Highway in Midway. There, historical records indicate the widow Susie King married her second husband, Russell Taylor, in 1879. At an opening reception on Friday, Aug.9 at 7 p.m., attendees can enjoy Geechee storytelling, an art exhibit, Negro Spirituals as well as lowcountry cuisine and birthday cake. This will be the third year that the nonprofit organization and its partners Sankofa African American Geechee Heritage Trail Committee and the church have celebrated the ex-slave’s birthday.

 “Did you know that slavery was so horrific and depriving that most slaves did not know when they were born?” Institute executive director Hermina Glass-Hill asked. “We are fortunate that Susie King Taylor could read and write and she knew her birth date. In her autobiography she stated ‘I was born under the slave law…I was born on the Grest Farm (which was on an island known as Isle of Wight), Liberty County, about 35 miles from Savannah, on August 6, 1848.’ So, it is going to be a real birthday party celebration with cake and ice cream and lowcountry Geechee cuisine. The birthday is an experience that we have melded with our conference to provide community access outside of academia to learning about our hometown heroine of freedom.”

Day two will be jam-packed with incredible speakers such as Dr. Paul Pressly, Jeanne Cyriaque, Dr. Anthony DiLorenzo, UNC graduate student Rebecca Byrd, and a mystery guest, according to Glass-Hill. Session topics will range from maroons (escaped slaves who lived free among the swamp areas) and the “Back to Africa Movement” and the creation of Liberia - a place that Susie King Taylor stated she would go if the Union lost the Civil War. In one of the sessions, researcher Stacy Ashmore Cole will talk about coming to terms with learning that her ancestors were owned slaves in Liberty County and what she decided to do with that information. The day will proceed with a tour of historic Geechee/African American sites and end with a concert by the Old Timey Day Geechee Choir from Sunbury and a whole hog barbecue, and birthday cake.

On Day 3, a closing reception will begin with shrimp and grits and birthday cake. Community historian and genealogist Rose Mullice will host a panel of Geechee elders from historic communities in East Liberty County who will share their recollections about the way it was in “the old days.” Griffin Lotson, a commissioner on the Georgia committee of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor National Heritage Area, will share insights about his recent trip to Sierra Leone – an African genetic link to enslaved people in the United States. 

“The Susie King Taylor Women’s Institute and Ecology Center promotes Susie King Taylor’s Geechee heritage and the history of plantation communities throughout coastal Georgia which left a cultural legacy for both Black and White people that is well worth remembering and celebrating. Her life story has many facets and it contains relevant history lessons that are still important to humanity today,” said Glass-Hill.

Tickets are $75 per person and include opening and closing receptions, all sessions, food, and the cultural heritage tour. Tickets can be purchased on the Institute’s website at or keyword “Susie King Taylor Mami Wata Rising.” For more information, call 404-587-3182.

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