Susie King Taylor


Susie King Taylor is a high-interest reading comprehension lesson that allows students to practice grade-appropriate reading comprehension, foundational reading, and reading fluency skills. These reading comprehension lessons are designed to be completed in one or two class settings.

Each lesson discusses a subject that students want to read about and that teachers will want to incorporate into their reading instruction. The lesson is appropriate as a whole-class, stand-alone lesson or as an independent small-group activity. Be sure to check if there is a Learn Bright video that goes with this lesson!

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What our Susie King Taylor lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Susie King Taylor is a high-interest reading comprehension lesson plan. As such, students will practice various close reading and comprehension skills. In addition, they will learn about the life and accomplishments of this incredible woman. This lesson is for students in 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. Make sure your students have access to the internet for this lesson.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page provides an extra paragraph of information to help guide the lesson. It explains that you can teach this lesson in a whole-class setting or as an independent, small-group activity. You can use the blank lines to write down any other ideas or thoughts you have about the topic as you prepare.


Dolly and Susie

The Susie King Taylor lesson plan contains three content pages. It starts off with a quote from Susie’s memoir. “I was born under the slave law in Georgia in 1848 and was brought up by my grandmother in Savannah. There were three of us with her, my younger sister and brother. My brother and I being the two eldest, we were sent to a friend of my grandmother, Mrs. Woodhouse, a widow, to learn to read and write. . . . We went every day about nine o’clock, with our books wrapped in paper to prevent the police or white persons from seeing them. We went in one at a time, through the gate, into the yard to the L kitchen, which was the schoolroom.” (Reminiscences of My Life in Camp, 1902, pp. 5–6)

History is full of inspiring stories of courage, perseverance, and great deeds. One of the most compelling is the life of Susie King Taylor! Who was Susie King Taylor? Great question! Born in rural Georgia in 1848, she was the oldest of nine children. Though enslaved, 7-year-old Susie was allowed to travel and live with her grandmother in Savannah, which was about 50 miles away. Her grandmother, Dolly Reed, was a free woman. She worked as a laundress, house cleaner, and healer.

Doctors were scarce in the 1800s, especially for those who were enslaved. Many people in the 1800s never saw a doctor. They were treated by the local wise woman who was skilled in the use of herbs, like Dolly. Dolly used local plants, roots, herbs, and bark to make medicine. She passed on this healer tradition to Susie and taught her all she knew about local natural remedies and medicines.


Dolly’s influence on Susie cannot be understated. Dolly was illiterate. But she wanted Susie to read, write, and have the opportunity to attend school, which Dolly wasn’t allowed to do. In the United States in the 1800s, there were harsh penalties for educating enslaved people. So, Dolly arranged to have Susie educated in secret schools taught by African American women.

Attending school was not as easy as it is today. Susie and other students would walk to Mrs. Woodhouse’s home, which is where their secret school was held. All the students would wrap their books and schoolwork in brown paper when walking to school. They did this to avoid police or others from discovering that they were going to school. Mrs. Woodhouse would be in great personal danger if the secret school were discovered by authorities. After a time, Mrs. Woodhouse told Dolly that she had taught Susie everything she knew and that Dolly would have to find a new teacher.

Susie wrote, “I had a white playmate about this time, named Katie O’Connor, who lived on the next corner of the street from my house, and who attended a convent. One day she told me, if I would promise not to tell her father, she would give me some lessons. On my promise not to do so, and getting her mother’s consent, she gave me lessons about four months, every evening.” Later, the high school son of Dolly’s landlord would provide Susie with a few more lessons. The lessons ended in late 1861 when he joined the Confederate army to fight in the Civil War.

Civil War

In April 1862, Union forces captured Fort Pulaski, which was located just outside Savannah. Susie and other enslaved residents saw this as an opportunity to escape, and they left Savannah for St. Simons Island, Georgia. There they met up with Union forces that were occupying the island. Union army officers were told about Susie’s education and literacy.

They made a deal with her. If she would teach the soldiers and others, they would provide books and other supplies. At the age of 14, Susie became the first Black teacher for formerly enslaved African American students in a freedmen’s school in Georgia. More dramatic changes to her life were to come.

End of the War

While teaching at the school at St. Simons, Susie met Edward King. King was an African American non-commissioned officer in the Union Army. They got married, and Susie traveled with his regiment for the next three years during the Civil War. Dolly’s lessons as a healer paid off because, during this time, Susie was able to put her healing skills to good use. She became a nurse and a laundress for the regiment. During downtime, when no battle was raging, she taught many soldiers to read and write.

Susie also witnessed and participated in several Civil War battles. “I learned to handle a musket very well while in the regiment, and could shoot straight and often hit the target. I assisted in cleaning the guns and used to fire them off, to see if the cartridges were dry, before cleaning and reloading, each day,” she wrote. Finally, the war ended. Robert E. Lee surrendered the Confederate army to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.

Susie and her husband moved to Savannah in 1866. She opened a school for freed children of former enslaved people. Then tragedy struck. While working as a longshoreman, Edward was killed in a boat docking accident. This left Susie on her own financially. She earned a small living as a teacher and a laundress until she made the decision to close down her school. In 1872, she moved to Boston to be a domestic servant for a wealthy family.

Legacy of Susie King Taylor

In 1879, Susie married Russell Taylor. For the rest of her life, she devoted herself to assisting veterans of the Civil War. Susie organized a veterans group called Corps 67 Women’s Relief Corps, and later served as its president. She was also a civil rights activist and published her memoir, Reminiscences of My Life in Camp, in 1902. It was the only memoir published by an African American woman about wartime experiences with the army. It was also one of the few published works by African Americans in the United States at the time.

Susie King Taylor passed away in 1912. However, her legacy and good works are memorialized with several historic Liberty and Chatham County monuments. A charter school was named after her in Savannah in 2017. In November 2022, the City Council voted to rename Calhoun Square (Calhoun was a pro-slavery advocate) to Taylor Square.

These last few sentences in Susie King Taylor’s book may best describe her importance in American history. “What a wonderful revolution! In 1861 the Southern papers were full of advertisements for ‘slaves,’ but now, despite all the hindrances and ‘race problems,’ my people are striving to attain the full standard of all other races born free in the sight of God, and in a number of instances have succeeded.”


The Susie King Taylor lesson plan includes two worksheets: an activity worksheet and a practice worksheet. Each one will help students solidify their grasp of the material they learned throughout the lesson. You can refer to the classroom procedure guidelines to know when to hand out each worksheet.


The practice worksheet requires students to answer a series of 10 questions. These questions all relate to the content pages, so students will need to refer to them often for the answers. In addition, each question provides which reading tool the question corresponds to, such as text feature, vocabulary, or comprehension.

Worksheet Answer Keys

At the end of the lesson plan document is an answer key for the practice worksheet. The correct answers are all in red to make it easier for you to compare them with students’ responses. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade


Biography, Social Studies, High-Interest Reading

State Educational Standards


Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.