Descendants of the abolitionist and women’s suffragist Harriet Tubman convened in Atlanta recently for a proclamation presentation by Atlanta City Council and weeklong events reuniting family members from across the nation.
With support from media advocate Sharon Hill and “Sights and Sounds” curator James Horton, Friday, July 6, 2012, was declared Harriet Ross Tubman Day in the city of Atlanta. The Tubman Museum, located an hour away in Macon, Ga., joined in the celebration offering free tours to the public for the Harriet Ross Tubman Day.
Echoing the words of Tubman’s enduring command to passengers aboard the Underground Railroad: “Keep Goin!” family members accepted the proclamation honoring the legacy of their great ancestor from author/attorney Harold Michael Harvey; and performed skits depicting Tubman’s life, during the opening reception of the Sights and Sounds Black Cultural Museum Exhibit, Friday, at Greenbriar Mall.
Tubman’s family, ranging in age from 10 months to 79 years old, and from various states including Auburn, N.Y. – the final home of Tubman – reflected during the occasion with vivid stories of how they “kept going” the family going through many trials including divorce, unemployment and illness. Several members also shared stories of academic accomplishments and of many projects and papers done collectively between them on Tubman, all of which received A’s.
“Keep going means many things to us,” said Geraldine Copes Daniels, the great grand-niece and oldest surviving relative of Tubman. “It means get educated, go to college, get a career.” Her daughter Rita Daniels, a domestic violence survivor added: “We’ve all gone through a lot. I’ve been beat down and left for dead, but setback is not in our DNA.”
Tubman, otherwise known as “Moses” and “General Tubman,” endured a number of hardships throughout her life as a slave, Civil-War spy, and while defiantly leading 300 men, women, and children to freedom along the covert and dangerous, water and land routes of the Underground Railroad. She used the master’s horse and buggy, packed a sedative drug for babies who might cry, and carried a shotgun for pursuers – and for scared fugitives who considered turning back. She also suffered from seizures and sleeping spells – the result of being struck in the head with a two-pound weight by an angry overseer, at the age of 12. Her most harrowing mission was rescuing her parents, who were manumitted slaves forced into continued labor by masters who disregarded their legally granted free status. Aided by compassionate Quakers, Native Americans, and an unyielding faith in God, Tubman never lost a passenger.
Carrying out 19 missions, Tubman eventually retired to Auburn, where she purchased a home from New York Sen. William H. Seward, continued to aid destitute children, helped to create freedmen’s schools, and founded the Home for Aged and Indigent Colored People.She died in 1913, and received several honors following her death: a bronze memorial by the city of Auburn at the Cayuga County Courthouse; dedication of the Liberty Ship by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1944; a U.S. Postal commemorative stamp; and the opening of the Freedom Park in Auburn.
Legislative bills currently in the House and Senate will consider the creation of a Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn and a similar park in Maryland, where she was born and delivered most slaves from. Sassafras Ridge Mountain Development will also host Geraldine Daniels in the North Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina Triangle, where the noted Underground Railroad “trail of tears” is chartered through.
“She was a fearless soldier. There was no Harriet Tubman in books when I was in school. The nation needs to know and remember who she was. That is one of the reasons why we have all come together and will keep going,” said Daniels.