The year of Harriet Tubman
Back in the early 1960s, when I was an eighth-grader at Easton Jr.-Sr. High School, there was a wonderful American history teacher there.
A New Englander, her name was Constance Bloomfield. She taught histor y with gusto and affection.
I looked forward to her class, particularly when she got to the chapters about the Civil War. I was fascinated by Abraham Lincoln, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Frederick Douglass and, of course, Harriet Tubman.
The one thing that would have made those classes even more interesting was if we had been told that Douglass was born into slavery right here in Talbot County and that Tubman was born in neighboring Dorchester County.
Those two facts are widely known these days, but for some reason they were missing from my classroom. It was my impression back in the 1960s that Douglass and Tubman had been active anywhere but on the Delmarva Peninsula.
Today, in fact, there is a fine bronze statue of Frederick Douglass on the Talbot County Courthouse lawn in Easton.
And all sorts of tributes to Harriet Tubman are planned in the next month.
Unofficially, 2017 also has been declared the Year of Tubman.
The new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Dorchester County opens in a matter of days.
In addition, there are two Tubman movie projects planned.
Grand Opening Weekend for the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Center in Church Creek begins Saturday, March 11.
And did you know there is a national Harriet Tubman Day? It is Friday, March 10. The holiday was approved by Congress in 1990, and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on March 7, 1990.
Harriet Tubman — born Arminta Ross in about 1822 — was an abolitionist, humanitarian and armed scout and spy for the U.S. Army during the Civil War. Born into slavery in Dorchester, Tubman escaped and made about 13 missions to rescue as many as 300 enslaved people.
She used a network of anti-slavery activists and safe houses, some of them here on Delmarva, known as the Underground Railroad. Tubman later helped abolitionist John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harpers Ferry.
After the Civil War she became an energetic women’s suffragette.
In old age, Tubman was admitted to a home for elderly African-Americans that she had helped establish. She died in 1913.
As I am sure many of you are aware, there is discussion of putting Harriet Tubman’s face on the U.S. $20 bill.
If that happens, I hope the likeness used will be the recently discovered photo of Tubman at a much earlier age. The photo, to be sold at auction March 30, was taken in the late 1860s, when Tubman was in her 40s.
Riley is editor emeritus of The Star Democrat.
George Wright’s oil painting of Harriet Tubman was unveiled Saturday, Feb. 18, at the Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center in Cambridge.