by Frieda Garcia, Friends of Harriet Tubman
Sunday March 10th, 2013 is the 100th Anniversary of the death of Harriet Tubman. I am urging that this be commemorated and her life celebrated in the churches of Boston and Massachusetts.
In 1849 Harriet Tubman ran away from slavery and yet she returned several times to rescue relatives, friends and her own aged parents-approximately 70 people in all were brought to freedom by her on the underground railroad. When the "Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850 and neither she nor her "passengers" were safe on even northern American soil, she took them to St. Catherine's in Canada on the other side of Niagara Falls. Though she never learned to read and write, she worked all her life to provide for herself and those who had escaped from slavery. In 1859 she bought seven acres of land from Secretary of State William Seward in Auburn, New York so that those who wanted to leave Canada could return to the United States. Today, two sites associated with her are about to become part of the National Park Service. The first is Dorchester County, Maryland where she was born, which has tours of sites commemorating her early history and presence in that state; the second in Auburn, where she is buried, and where some of her descendants continue to live.
What is less known and needs recognition is her connection and relationship to Massachusetts. Harriet Tubman was a frequent visitor to this state and was well known to all the abolitionists here.
She was held in such high esteem that soon after the Civil War started, John Andrew, the Governor of Massachusetts hired her to be a spy and scout and sent her down to Beaufort, North Carolina in 1862 to be with the Union soldiers Thus began a less known but eventful part of her life. It is a period that allows us to see her multifaceted skills and tireless work. (Before heading south she arranged for monies to be provided to her elderly parents in Auburn.) Her work in the Carolinas and the Sea Islands-the first place the Union controlled in the South--and the esteem in which she was held by most of the Officers resulted her leading a skirmish in June 1863 with Colonel Montgomery at the mouth of the Combahee River that freed 750 slaves and destroyed on of the largest plantations without loosing a single Union soldier. In July 1863 she was with the 54th Regiment before and after the battle at Fort Wagner. The 100 thanniversary of her death coincides with the 150th anniversary of the 54th and the official entry of Black soldiers in the Civil War and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
After the war she returned to Auburn, continued to raise monies for the needy, was active in the women's rights movement and joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church to whom she left the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged.