The Grimke Family was one of the most prominent black families in Washington. Brothers Archibald and Francis Grimke and their wives and offspring made their marks on the city in religion, education, civil rights, and the arts. The house that once stood on Corcoran Street was Archibald Grimke's final residence.
Archibald (1849-1930) and Francis Grimke (1850-1937) were born enslaved in Charleston, South Carolina, the sons of Nancy Weston, also enslaved, and Henry Grimke, a white slave owner. Both brothers attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Though taking different paths after graduation, they would both end up in Washington, DC.
Archibald Grimke, the second black graduate of Harvard Law School, moved to Washington in 1905 with his daughter Angelina Weld Grimke. One of his major achievements was his tenure as president of the American Negro Academy (ANA), the nation's first national black learned society founded in 1897. Archibald served as third president of the ANA. He is considered a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and served as president of the Washington branch. He was a vigorous opponent of President Woodrow Wilson's introduction of segregation in the federal government departments.
Archibald married Sarah Stanley, a white woman, but the marriage was short lived. Their daughter, Angelina Weld Grimke (1880-1958), taught English at the Armstrong Manual Training School and then Dunbar High School. While teaching, she wrote Rachel on the subject of lynching. It was the first full-length play written, produced, and performed by African Americans in the 20th century. It was produced by the Drama Committee of the NAACP in 1916. She also wrote other plays, short stories, and nonfiction, some of which were published after her death.
Francis Grimke graduated from the Princeton Theological Seminary in 1878 and married Charlotte L. Forten (1837-1914) the same year. They returned to Washington in 1889 and Grimke became the celebrated pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church, where he presided for more than 60 years. Forten was one of the co-founders of the Colored Women's League in 1894. They lived at 1608 R Street, NW, until her death in 1914.
The Grimke Elementary School (1923 Vermont Avenue, NW), now governmental offices, was named in honor of the Grimke family.