Strong Black woman. Man, I have so many memories of grade school and Black History Month; the little posters taped to the classroom walls for a month, the book reports and the coating of sugar on the legacies of dozens of fighters for justice. It was all entrenched in a message that freedom is good, slavery and oppression: bad. All my grade school teachers were Italian, I think. Or Polish. Definitely white.
I wonder why whenever they taught us about Harriet Tubman none of them offered to us impressionable youngsters something to the effect: “This was a strong Black woman, guys.”
I’m not sure we understood it via the passages in our Houghton Mifflin textbooks, or the TV documentaries.
So, I offer you here, the strong Black Woman that was Harriet Tubman. This ancestor’s spirit continues to inspire the oppressed and she wasn’t only a voice for Black folks, but for women, period. Listen to Maya Angelou, in her authoritative baritone read about the woman who helped free slaves via the Underground Railroad with a bounty on her head.
Via The National Women’s History Project:
Fugitive Slave, Rescuer of Slaves
Tubman was born into slavery in Maryland. In 1849, she fled to Philadelphia but returned to Maryland the next year to begin the first of many Underground Railroad trips to lead family and friends to freedom using caution, skill, and subterfuge. Some passengers she escorted to Canada. In the Civil War, Tubman was a spy and scout for the Union in the Sea Islands. In 1896, she spoke at the convention of the American National Woman Suffrage Association convention.
For the pop culture treatment of Tubman’s legacy, check these out:
- Photo of Harriet Tubman via @Rahim_TheDream, via @therealslimbaby
- Maya Angelou recording and link via Freedomarchives.org
- Underground Railroad map via Stuffromthelab.wordpress.com
- For further info check out http://www.harriettubman.com/