Chances are you’ve passed the house at 321 East Bay Street on your way to a downtown restaurant or to a performance at the Gaillard, but have you ever stopped to wonder about the history of this grand home? Situated on the Northwest corner of George and East Bay, this historic double house was built for wealthy planter William Blake around the year 1789. The building passed into the hands of Declaration of Independence signer, Arthur Middleton, before selling to John Faucheraud Grimké, a prestigious Charleston judge and father of the famous abolitionist sisters, Angelina and Sarah Grimké.
The Grimké Sisters came of age around the “Peculiar Institution” of slavery, observing the brutality and dehumanizing realities of the system first-hand. Both women chose to leave the South and joined the burgeoning abolitionist movement in Philadelphia. The Grimkés toured New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania speaking out against slavery and circulating anti-slavery tracts. Ultimately becoming celebrated figures of the abolitionist and equal-rights movements, Angelina and Sarah’s journey began in their childhood home on East Bay Street in Charleston, South Carolina.
Interestingly, the house at 321 East Bay has recently staked a claim in popular culture. Author Sue Monk Kidd has set her novel, The Invention of Wings, in the historic Charleston house. The recent #1 New York Times bestselling book is a fictionalized account of the life of Sarah Grimké and of Hetty “Handful” Grimké, an enslaved woman owned by the Grimké family. Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday in 1803, when she is given ownership of ten-year-old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for lives of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.
This quarter, we are excited to announce the selection of The Invention of Wings as the featured book for the FOL Book Club. The meeting for this fascinating discussion will take place at the Blake-Grimké House!
Join us on Tuesday, April 21st at 6PM at 321 East Bay Street, the current site of Pierce, Herns, Sloan & Wilson, LLC, for a lively discussion of Sue Monk Kidd’s latest book with beloved English professor, Dr. Nan Morrison! Harlan Green, head of Special Collections at the College of Charleston, will present several rare artifacts from the Grimké Family Papers housed at the College archives and within the South Carolina Historical Society. Book Club members will also be allowed to tour the building where the Grimké family once lived!
This event is open to all members of the Friends of the Library.
Space is limited! To RSVP, please email Anahita Modaresi by April 17th at FOL@cofc.edu.
Special thanks to Pierce, Herns, Sloan & Wilson, LLC for use of their beautiful building!
For more information about upcoming events honoring the Grimké Sisters (including an historical marker dedication at the Blake-Grimké House) and Sue Monk Kidd’s visit to Charleston, click here.