Remembering Charlotte Green

Weekly Reflection, Friday, February 11

By: Elizabeth Starling

February is Black History Month, so when I was asked to write this reflection, it felt important to use this short piece to remember Charlotte Green. Maybe you’ve seen the small plaque dedicated to her in the narthex of Little St. Mary’s, or maybe you’ve read a bit about her in the Dover Lounge exhibit. I told someone recently that her plaque in Little St. Mary’s is what really inspired me to research St. Mary’s history. I’ve worked with several Black communities over the years to research their ancestry and heritage, and each time it proves equal parts fascinating and impossible. The same could be said for my attempts to learn more about Charlotte Green, fondly known to parishioners at the time as “Aunt Charlotte.”

Aunt Charlotte’s parents were Henry and Sarah Thompson. We know this because of the 1866 Cohabitation Register, and because Charlotte is listed as living with them in 1866, we can deduce that she was born into slavery. We know that she married William Green/Greene, and they had a son named Lewis. She spent most of her adult life working at St. Mary’s, caring not only for the building, but for its parishioners, and especially for their children. Because she cared for children while their parents went to church, I like to think of her as our first Sunday School teacher. She also served as a midwife, and delivered babies who would grow up at St. Mary’s. We know from her death certificate that she died on April 20, 1936 from health complications, and the undertaker who helped her family was A.D. Price, Jr. at 12 East Leigh Street. Years ago, her cabin stood in what is now Randolph Square; but now, there remains no evidence of that residence. We don’t know where she was buried, although it’s not entirely unreasonable to wonder if she may be buried somewhere here.

We ultimately know very little about Charlotte Green, but I desperately wish we knew more. I want to see photos of her; hear stories of her work with the children of St. Mary’s; understand her relationships with early parishioners here. I want to know how she came to work here. I want to retrace her daily walk between her cabin in the woods and Little St. Mary’s, and I wish I had a record in her own words of what St. Mary’s meant to her. As I talked with David about this reflection, he said, “We don’t put up plaques for no reason,” and he’s right. Charlotte Green was for many years an integral part of the St. Mary’s family, and I hope that we continue to wonder and learn about her life and keep her memory alive.