The Susie King Taylor Women’s Institute and Ecology Center celebrated Juneteenth last Sunday by commemorating ex-slave Susie King Taylor and by announcing a local Liberty County high school graduate as the first recipient of an award and scholarship named in her honor. The $1,000 Susie King Taylor Educational Excellence Heritage Award and Scholarship was awarded to Quintin Johnson, Jr. who received acceptance letters from five different colleges, but has elected to attend Middle Georgia State University where he will pursue a degree in Sports Management.
The award and scholarship were created to remember Georgia Geechee Susie King Taylor, a literate escaped slave and the first federally-funded teacher in the state of Georgia who later opened three schools between Savannah and Midway after the Civil War. The Institute’s founders Hermina Glass-Hill and Kelvin Hill wanted to recognize a young scholar from Geechee communities in the east end of Liberty County and they hope that young scholars will be inspired to do their best in school and to pursue their dreams at traditional colleges, technical training centers, or art school. The scholarship started off at $300 but increased to $1000 when three local donors heard about it and contribut- ed an extra $700 surprising the graduate and his family.
The Institute selected Quintin Johnson, Jr. as the first recipient of the prestigious Susie King Taylor Educational Excellence Heritage Award and Scholarship because he is an exceptional student. Artistically he is a child prodigy, academically he excels and socially he has high moral character and is active in the community. “These are values in young people that must be celebrated,” says Hermina Glass-Hill, executive director of the institute. “We realized Quintin was gifted when he was around twelve months old,” states his parents Rose and Quintin Johnson, Sr. of Midway. “He knew all of the drum beats and steps to the movie Drum Line. His daycare teachers were amazed at his early gifts. And he has been playing the drums ever since. He plays drums for our church Community Missionary Baptist Church.”
Susie King Taylor was a prodigy for her time. Born enslaved in Liberty County in 1848 Susie King Taylor began her education in the antebellum years as early as five years old at the feet of her mistress learning to read and write, and by seven years of age she began attending a series of underground bucket schools in Savannah taught by free women of color. Taylor escaped slavery and struck out for freedom in a boat with a small band of runaways in Liberty County on April 13, 1862. It is upon her rescue by the Union Navy that her educational gifts were called upon at St. Simon’s Island to teach hundreds of runaways who had also escaped slavery on coastal plantations during the war.
The institute’s namesake experienced the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 as well as Juneteenth – that critical moment in American history when the announcement of the 13th Amendment, the abolition of slavery, reached the isolated state of Texas on June 19, 1865. She seized freedom at her own will and she came out on the other side of Juneteenth filled with hope and education was the cornerstone for her dreams and aspirations.
“Quintin Johnson, Jr. is smart, humble, and gifted and these important values will make room for him in society and in the world and we know that Susie King Taylor championed these values in young people. So, we are joyous for him and his future,” says the founders. Next year the Susie King Taylor Women’s Institute and Ecology Center hopes to increase the amount and number of awards and scholarships to young scholars from Geechee communities in Coastal Georgia.
For more information, call 404-587-3182.