I HAVE A DREAM SPEECH 

This is an audio recording of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. giving the "I Have a Dream" speech during the Civil Rights rally on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963

 

 

Martin Luther King Jr. Biography

(1929–1968)

Martin Luther King Jr. was a scholar and minister who led the civil rights movement. After his assassination, he was memorialized by Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Who Was Martin Luther King Jr?

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and civil-rights activist who had a seismic impact on race relations in the United States, beginning in the mid-1950s. 

Among his many efforts, King headed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Through his activism and inspirational speeches, he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the United States, as well as the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, among several other honors. He continues to be remembered as one of the most influential and inspirational African-American leaders in history.

Early Life

Born as Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. was the middle child of Michael King Sr. and Alberta Williams King. 

The King and Williams families had roots in rural Georgia. Martin Jr.'s grandfather, A.D. Williams, was a rural minister for years and then moved to Atlanta in 1893. 

He took over the small, struggling Ebenezer Baptist church with around 13 members and made it into a forceful congregation. He married Jennie Celeste Parks and they had one child that survived, Alberta. 

Martin Sr. came from a family of sharecroppers in a poor farming community. He married Alberta in 1926 after an eight-year courtship. The newlyweds moved to A.D.'s home in Atlanta.

Martin Sr. stepped in as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church upon the death of his father-in-law in 1931. He too became a successful minister and adopted the name Martin Luther King Sr. in honor of the German Protestant religious leader Martin Luther. In due time, Michael Jr. would follow his father's lead and adopt the name himself.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Martin Luther: The Parallels Between the Two Leaders


Harriet Tubman
1820? to March 10, 1913

Of all the names associated with the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman's is the most legendary. Called the black "Joan of Arc," she is credited with personally escorting three hundred slaves to freedom on more than twenty separate missions. Such missions entailed hundreds of miles of walking, navigating through rough terrain, outwitting professional slave catchers and evading hunting dogs. An abolitionist of the nineteenth century. Born a slave on a Maryland plantation, then became an escaped slave herself. She escaped to the North in 1849 via the Underground Railroad. She became the most renowned conductor of its time. During the Civil War, she served as a nurse, scout, and spy for the Union army. Believing herself guided by God on her missions, Tubman and her 100% success rate made her a legend. Prior to and during the Civil War, a $40,000 reward was offered for her arrest. Tubman settled in Auburn, New York and died there in 1913.

AUGUST QUARTERLY

The “Big Quarterly” known today as the “August Quarterly” is the oldest continuous celebrated African Festival in the nation, first celebrated in 1814 and every year since.  Pastor Jimmie Knox from Mother African Union Church 800 block of French St.  He purchased his own freedom.  He founded the Union Church of African  Members.  There were delegates from 600 churches representing more than 25,000 members from the USA and Canada.  They assembled annually in Wilmington during the last weekend in August.The PA Railroad built was built in 1881 at the Riverfront on South Market Street and Rosa Parks Drive.  The Underground Railroad conductors were 

John Hunn and Samuel D. Burris. 

Martin Luther King Jr talks about Gandhi (see video)


READ MORE: How Martin Luther King Jr. Took Inspiration From Gandhi Nonviolence

Inspiring Quotes by Martin Luther King Jr.

THE LIFE OF Harriet Tubman

 

 

 People who made a 
Difference in History 





 

         

African-American History Makers

The August 

Mother African Union Church is 

at 

810 N. Franklin Street

 

Pastor Lawrence M. Livingston


Tubman, Garrett Riverfront Park established 1998
"God sees the best in me when everybody else sees the worse in me."


Martin Luther King, Jr.  

January 15, 1929 to April 4, 1968





John F. Kennedy
May 29, 1917 to
November 22, 1963

An African-American clergyman and political leader of the twentieth century; the most prominent member of the civil rights movement. King became famous in the 1950s and 1960s through his promotion of nonviolent methods of opposition to segregation, such as boycotts of segregated city buses, or sit-ins at lunch counters that would not serve black people. His “ Letter from Birmingham Jail” defended this kind of direct, nonviolent action as a way of forcing people to take notice of injustice. King helped organize the march on Washington in 1963 that drew hundreds of thousands of supporters of civil rights to Washington, D. C., for a mass rally. At this march, he described a possible future of racial harmony in his most famous speech, which had the refrain “ I have a dream.” In 1964, he received the Nobel Prize for peace. King was assassinated by James Earl Ray in 1968. 

At age forty-three, Kennedy was the youngest person to be elected president in American history. A Democratic party political leader of the twentieth century; he was president from 1961 to 1963. In his inaugural address, he challenged the nation, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." He strongly supported space exploration and the civil rights movement.
In 1963, demands by African Americans for equal civil and economic rights increased.  Racial protests and demonstrations took place all over the United States.  On August 28, 1963 more than 200,000 people staged a freedom march in Washington D.C. to demonstrate their demands for equal rights for blacks.  Kennedy asked Congress to pass legislation requiring hotels, motels, and restaurants to admit customers regardless of race.  He also asked congress to grant the attorney general authority to begin court suits to desegregate schools on behalf of private citizens unable to start legal action themselves.

http://www.biography.com/feat

Martin Luther King Jr. Biography

(1929–1968)

Martin Luther King Jr. was a scholar and minister who led the civil rights movement. After his assassination, he was memorialized by Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Who Was Martin Luther King Jr?

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist minister and civil-rights activist who had a seismic impact on race relations in the United States, beginning in the mid-1950s. 

Among his many efforts, King headed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Through his activism and inspirational speeches, he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the United States, as well as the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, among several other honors. He continues to be remembered as one of the most influential and inspirational African-American leaders in history.

Early Life

Born as Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. was the middle child of Michael King Sr. and Alberta Williams King. 

The King and Williams families had roots in rural Georgia. Martin Jr.'s grandfather, A.D. Williams, was a rural minister for years and then moved to Atlanta in 1893. 

He took over the small, struggling Ebenezer Baptist church with around 13 members and made it into a forceful congregation. He married Jennie Celeste Parks and they had one child that survived, Alberta. 

Martin Sr. came from a family of sharecroppers in a poor farming community. He married Alberta in 1926 after an eight-year courtship. The newlyweds moved to A.D.'s home in Atlanta.

Martin Sr. stepped in as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church upon the death of his father-in-law in 1931. He too became a successful minister and adopted the name Martin Luther King Sr. in honor of the German Protestant religious leader Martin Luther. In due time, Michael Jr. would follow his father's lead and adopt the name himself.

Louis Lorenzo Redding

(Oct. 25, 1901–Sep. 28, 1998)

He was a prominent lawyer and civil rights advocate from Wilmington, Delaware. Redding, the first African American to be admitted to the Delaware bar in 1929. He is a Pioneer in the struggle for equality and tireless advocated in Civil Rights cases. He successfully represented victims of Racial Discrimination in a series of Landmark cases. He gave a new meaning to the concept of equality under the law. In 1950, courts of Delaware Parker vs. University of Delaware established the rights to an unsegregated college.  


In 2009, the Redding House Foundation opened the Redding House Museum in his childhood home in Wilmington. 


More on Mr. Redding at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_L._Redding
http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/louis-l-redding-first-black-lawyer-delaware-and-civil-rights-pioneer


John F. Kennedy Biography

(1917–1963)

UPDATED:OCT 29, 2019ORIGINAL:OCT 27, 2017

John F. Kennedy, the 35th U.S. president, negotiated the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and initiated the Alliance for Progress. He was assassinated in 1963.

Who Was John F. Kennedy?

John F. Kennedy served in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate before becoming the 35th president in 1961. As president, Kennedy faced a number of foreign crises, especially in Cuba and Berlin, but managed to secure such achievements as the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and the Alliance for Progress. On November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas.

Early Life

Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts. Both the Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys were wealthy and prominent Irish Catholic Boston families. Kennedy's paternal grandfather, P.J. Kennedy, was a wealthy banker and liquor trader, and his maternal grandfather, John E. Fitzgerald, nicknamed "Honey Fitz," was a skilled politician who served as a congressman and as the mayor of Boston. Kennedy's mother, Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald, was a Boston debutante, and his father, Joseph Kennedy Sr., was a successful banker who made a fortune on the stock market after World War I. Joe Kennedy Sr. went on to a government career as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and as an ambassador to Great Britain.

John, nicknamed "Jack," was the second oldest of a group of nine extraordinary siblings. His brothers and sisters include Eunice, the founder of the Special Olympics; Robert, a U.S. Attorney General, and Ted, one of the most powerful senators in American history. The Kennedy children remained close-knit and supportive of each other throughout their entire lives.

Joseph and Rose largely spurned the world of Boston socialites into which they had been born to focus instead on their children's education. Joe Sr. in particular obsessed over every detail of his kids' lives, a rarity for a father at that time. As a family friend noted, "Most fathers in those days simply weren't that interested in what their children did. But Joe Kennedy knew what his kids were up to all the time." Joe Sr. had great expectations for his children, and he sought to instill in them a fierce competitive fire and the belief that winning was everything. He entered his children in swimming and sailing competitions and chided them for finishing in anything but first place. John's sister, Eunice, later recalled, "I was twenty-four before I knew I didn't have to win something every day." John bought into his father's philosophy that winning was everything. "He hates to lose at anything," Eunice said. "That's the only thing Jack gets really emotional about — when he loses."

Education

Despite his father's constant reprimands, young Kennedy was a poor student and a mischievous boy. He attended a Catholic boys' boarding school in Connecticut called Canterbury, where he excelled at English and history, the subjects he enjoyed, but nearly flunked Latin, in which he had no interest. Despite his poor grades, Kennedy continued on to Choate, an elite Connecticut preparatory school. Although he was obviously brilliant — evidenced by the extraordinary thoughtfulness and nuance of his work on the rare occasions when he applied himself — Kennedy remained at best a mediocre student, preferring sports, girls and practical jokes to coursework.

His father wrote to him by way of encouragement, "If I didn't really feel you had the goods I would be most charitable in my attitude toward your failings ... I am not expecting too much, and I will not be disappointed if you don't turn out to be a real genius, but I think you can be a really worthwhile citizen with good judgment and understanding." Kennedy was in fact very bookish in high school, reading ceaselessly but not the books his teachers assigned. He was also chronically ill during his childhood and adolescence; he suffered from severe colds, the flu, scarlet fever and even more severe, undiagnosed diseases that forced him to miss months of school at a time and occasionally brought him to the brink of death.


After graduating from Choate and spending one semester at Princeton, Kennedy transferred to Harvard University in 1936. There, he repeated his by then well-established academic pattern, excelling occasionally in the classes he enjoyed but proving only an average student due to the omnipresent diversions of sports and women. Handsome, charming and blessed with a radiant smile, Kennedy was incredibly popular with his Harvard classmates. His friend Lem Billings recalled, "Jack was more fun than anyone I've ever known, and I think most people who knew him felt the same way about him." Kennedy was also an incorrigible womanizer. He wrote to Billings during his sophomore year, "I can now get tail as often and as free as I want which is a step in the right direction."

Nevertheless, as an upperclassman, Kennedy finally grew serious about his studies and began to realize his potential. His father had been appointed Ambassador to Great Britain, and on an extended visit in 1939, Kennedy decided to research and write a senior thesis on why Britain was so unprepared to fight Germany in World War II. An incisive analysis of Britain's failures to meet the Nazi challenge, the paper was so well-received that upon Kennedy's graduation in 1940 it was published as a book, Why England Slept, selling more than 80,000 copies. Kennedy's father sent him a cablegram in the aftermath of the book's publication: "Two things I always knew about you one that you are smart two that you are a swell guy love dad."




U.S. Navy Service

Shortly after graduating from Harvard, Kennedy joined the U.S. Navy and was assigned to command a patrol torpedo boat in the South Pacific. On August 2, 1943, his boat, PT-109, was rammed by a Japanese warship and split in two. Two sailors died and Kennedy badly injured his back. Hauling another wounded sailor by the strap of his life vest, Kennedy led the survivors to a nearby island, where they were rescued six days later. The incident earned him the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for "extremely heroic conduct" and a Purple Heart for the injuries he suffered.


However, Kennedy's older brother, Joe Jr., who had also joined the Navy, was not so fortunate. A pilot, he died when his plane blew up in August 1944. Handsome, athletic, intelligent and ambitious, Joseph Kennedy Jr. had been pegged by his father as the one among his children who would some day become president of the United States. In the aftermath of Joe Jr.'s death, Kennedy took his family's hopes and aspirations for his older brother upon himself.


Upon his discharge from the Navy, Kennedy worked briefly as a reporter for Hearst Newspapers. Then in 1946, at the age of 29, he decided to run for the U.S. House of Representatives from a working-class district of Boston, a seat being vacated by Democrat James Michael Curly. Bolstered by his status as a war hero, his family connections and his father's money, Kennedy won the election handily. However, after the glory and excitement of publishing his first book and serving in World War II, Kennedy found his work in Congress incredibly dull. Despite serving three terms, from 1946 to 1952, Kennedy remained frustrated by what he saw as stifling rules and procedures that prevented a young, inexperienced representative from making an impact. "We were just worms in the House," he later recalled. "Nobody paid attention to us nationally."


Congressman and Senator

In 1952, seeking greater influence and a larger platform, Kennedy challenged Republican incumbent Henry Cabot Lodge for his seat in the U.S. Senate. Once again backed by his father's vast financial resources, Kennedy hired his younger brother Robert as his campaign manager. Robert Kennedy put together what one journalist called "the most methodical, the most scientific, the most thoroughly detailed, the most intricate, the most disciplined and smoothly working state-wide campaign in Massachusetts history – and possibly anywhere else." In an election year in which Republicans gained control of both Houses of Congress, Kennedy nevertheless won a narrow victory, giving him considerable clout within the Democratic Party. According to one of his aides, the decisive factor in Kennedy's victory was his personality: "He was the new kind of political figure that people were looking for that year, dignified and gentlemanly and well-educated and intelligent, without the air of superior condescension."



Shortly after his election, Kennedy met a beautiful young woman named Jacqueline Bouvier at a dinner party and, in his own words, "leaned across the asparagus and asked her for a date." They were married on September 12, 1953. John and Jackie had three children: Caroline, John Jr. and Patrick Kennedy.


Kennedy continued to suffer frequent illnesses during his career in the Senate. While recovering from one surgery, he wrote another book, profiling eight senators who had taken courageous but unpopular stances. Profiles in Courage won the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for biography, and Kennedy remains the only American president to win a Pulitzer Prize.


Presidential Candidate and Presidency

Kennedy's eight-year Senate career was relatively undistinguished. Bored by the Massachusetts-specific issues on which he had to spend much of his time, Kennedy was more drawn to the international challenges posed by the Soviet Union's growing nuclear arsenal and the Cold War battle for the hearts and minds of Third World nations. In 1956, Kennedy was very nearly selected as Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson's running mate, but was ultimately passed over for Estes Kefauver from Tennessee. Four years later, Kennedy decided to run for president.


In the 1960 Democratic primaries, Kennedy outmaneuvered his main opponent, Hubert Humphrey, with superior organization and financial resources. Selecting Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson as his running mate, Kennedy faced Vice President Richard Nixon in the general election. The election turned largely on a series of televised national debates in which Kennedy bested Nixon, an experienced and skilled debater, by appearing relaxed, healthy and vigorous in contrast to his pallid and tense opponent. On November 8, 1960, Kennedy defeated Nixon by a razor-thin margin to become the 35th president of the United States of America.


Kennedy's election was historic in several respects. At the age of 43, he was the second youngest American president in history, second only to Theodore Roosevelt, who assumed the office at 42. He was also the first Catholic president and the first president born in the 20th century. Delivering his legendary inaugural address on January 20, 1961, Kennedy sought to inspire all Americans to more active citizenship. "Ask not what your country can do for you," he said. "Ask what you can do for your country."



Foreign Affairs

Kennedy's greatest accomplishments during his brief tenure as president came in the arena of foreign affairs. Capitalizing on the spirit of activism he had helped to ignite, Kennedy created the Peace Corps by executive order in 1961. By the end of the century, over 170,000 Peace Corps volunteers would serve in 135 countries. Also in 1961, Kennedy created the Alliance for Progress to foster greater economic ties with Latin America, in hopes of alleviating poverty and thwarting the spread of communism in the region.



Kennedy also presided over a series of international crises. On April 15, 1961, he authorized a covert mission to overthrow leftist Cuban leader Fidel Castro with a group of 1,500 CIA-trained Cuban refugees. Known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the mission proved an unmitigated failure, causing Kennedy great embarrassment.


In August 1961, to stem massive waves of emigration from Soviet-dominated East Germany to American ally West Germany via the divided city of Berlin, Nikita Khrushchev ordered the construction of the Berlin Wall, which became the foremost symbol of the Cold War.


However, the greatest crisis of the Kennedy administration was the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. Discovering that the Soviet Union had sent ballistic nuclear missiles to Cuba, Kennedy blockaded the island and vowed to defend the United States at any cost. After several of the tensest days in history, during which the world seemed on the brink of nuclear annihilation, the Soviet Union agreed to remove the missiles in return for Kennedy's promise not to invade Cuba and to remove American missiles from Turkey. Eight months later, in June 1963, Kennedy successfully negotiated the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty with Great Britain and the Soviet Union, helping to ease Cold War tensions. It was one of his proudest accomplishments.



Domestic Policy

President Kennedy's record on domestic policy was rather mixed. Taking office in the midst of a recession, he proposed sweeping income tax cuts, raising the minimum wage and instituting new social programs to improve education, health care and mass transit. However, hampered by lukewarm relations with Congress, Kennedy only achieved part of his agenda: a modest increase in the minimum wage and watered down tax cuts.


The most contentious domestic issue of Kennedy's presidency was civil rights. Constrained by Southern Democrats in Congress who remained stridently opposed to civil rights for black citizens, Kennedy offered only tepid support for civil rights reforms early in his term. 


Nevertheless, in September 1962 Kennedy sent his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to Mississippi to use the National Guard and federal marshals to escort and defend civil rights activist James Meredith as he became the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi on October 1, 1962. Near the end of 1963, in the wake of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Had a Dream" speech, Kennedy finally sent a civil rights bill to Congress. One of the last acts of his presidency and his life, Kennedy's bill eventually passed as the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964.




Assassination

On November 21, 1963, President Kennedy flew to Dallas, Texas for a campaign appearance. The next day, November 22, Kennedy, along with his wife and Texas governor John Connally, rode through cheering crowds in downtown Dallas in a Lincoln Continental convertible. From an upstairs window of the Texas School Book Depository building, a 24-year-old warehouse worker named Lee Harvey Oswald, a former Marine with Soviet sympathies, fired upon the car, hitting the president twice. Kennedy died at Parkland Memorial Hospital shortly thereafter, at age 46.


A Dallas nightclub owner named Jack Ruby assassinated Oswald days later while he was being transferred between jails. The death of President Kennedy was an unspeakable national tragedy, and to this date many people remember with unsettling vividness the exact moment they learned of his death. While conspiracy theories have swirled ever since Kennedy's assassination, the official version of events remains the most plausible: Oswald acted alone.


For few former presidents is the dichotomy between public and scholarly opinion so vast. To the American public, as well as his first historians, Kennedy is a hero — a visionary politician who, if not for his untimely death, might have averted the political and social turmoil of the late 1960s. In public-opinion polls, Kennedy consistently ranks with Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln as among the most beloved American presidents of all time. Critiquing this outpouring of adoration, many more recent Kennedy scholars have derided Kennedy's womanizing and lack of personal morals and argued that as a leader he was more style than substance. 


In the end, no one can ever truly know what type of president Kennedy would have become, or the different course history might have taken had he lived into old age. As historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote, it was "as if Lincoln had been killed six months after Gettysburg or Franklin Roosevelt at the end of 1935 or Truman before the Marshall Plan." The most enduring image of Kennedy's presidency, and of his whole life, is that of Camelot, the idyllic castle of the legendary King Arthur. As his wife Jackie Kennedy said after his death, "There'll be great presidents again, and the Johnsons are wonderful, they've been wonderful to me — but there'll never be another Camelot again."


Release of Assassination Documents

On October 26, 2017, President Donald Trump ordered the release of 2,800 records related to the Kennedy assassination. The move came at the expiration of a 25-year waiting period signed into law in 1992, which allowed the declassification of the documents provided that doing so would not hurt intelligence, military operations or foreign relations.



Trump's release of the documents came on the final day he was legally allowed to do so. However, he did not release all of the documents, as officials from the FBI, CIA and other agencies had successfully lobbied for the chance to review particularly sensitive material for an additional 180days.

 
 
 
Of all the names associated with the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman's is the most legendary. Called the black "Joan of Arc," she is credited with personally escorting three hundred slaves to freedom on more than twenty separate missions. Such missions entailed hundreds of miles of walking, navigating through rough terrain, outwitting professional slave catchers and evading hunting dogs. An abolitionist of the nineteenth century. Born a slave on a Maryland plantation, then became an escaped slave herself. She escaped to the North in 1849 via the Underground Railroad. She became the most renowned conductor of its time. During the Civil War, she served as a nurse, scout, and spy for the Union army. Believing herself guided by God on her missions, Tubman and her 100% success rate made her a legend. Prior to and during the Civil War, a $40,000 reward was offered for her arrest. Tubman settled in Auburn, New York and died there in 1913.       

The Truths Behind the Myth of Harriet Tubman aka Araminta Ross

Harriet Tubman is an American heroine, but her life story is shrouded in myth and exaggeration. Thanks to the work of Maxwell faculty members and students, the genuine contributions of Tubman’s life are coming to light.
by Renee Gearhart Levy


As if there weren’t enough controversy during the campaign between Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama,an unlikely firestorm erupted in February, when historical icon Harriet Tubman was pulled into the fray.


It all started when feminist political analyst Robin Morgan updated her infamous 1970 essay “Goodbye to All That” to castigate the racist and sexist divisions in the campaign, particularly as hurled against Clinton. In response to the failure of some women to support Clinton (and by implication, failure to be liberated), Morgan wrote: “Let a statement by the magnificent Harriet Tubman stand as reply. When asked how she managed to save hundreds of enslaved African Americans via the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, she replied bitterly, ‘I could have saved thousands—if only I’d been able to convince them they were slaves.’”


Within days, the validity of the quote was called into question by Ralph Luker of the History News Network, who contacted scholars who have researched Tubman—including Milton Sernett, professor emeritus of history at the Maxwell School (and African American studies at SU). Sernett is the author of the recently published Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, and History.


None could trace the quote to primary sources.


“My impression is that this is a late 20th-century quote from a fictionalized account of Tubman’s life,” Sernett told Luker. “Whoever wishes to use the dubious quote as a political zinger ought to cite a reliable source.”


Luker then told Morgan, “Cite your source or quit pimpin’ out Harriet Tubman.”


Harriet Tubman imageThat Tubman’s legacy would be misappropriated for political use was not particularly surprising to Sernett, who writes in the introduction to his book that Tubman may be “America’s most malleable icon.”


While Tubman has become one of the most recognized symbols of the anti–slavery era, the actual facts of her life have become shrouded beneath her status as a revered public icon. Her current prominence is indisputable. According to the March 2008 Journal of American History, she’s the third most identified African American historical figure (after Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks). Her image graces a U.S. postage stamp. She is the subject of numerous children’s books and educational materials. Congress is currently studying whether her historic home should be turned into a national park.


Nonetheless, misinformation about “the Moses of her people” abounds. Tubman was illiterate and left no written record of her own, but tales of her heroics, both in rescuing other slaves and serving as a nurse, spy, and scout in the Civil War, have been canonized in biographical narrative, not all of it perfectly true.


These embellished semi-truths embedded in what seems to be literal biography are at the root of the problem. “That is where much of the misinformation about her has come from—historical fiction that is not always clear about when it is historical and when it is fictive,” Sernett says.


Sernett, with his recent book, is helping sort things out. He chronicles the life of the commemorated Tubman (the myth) and compares it with the actual Tubman, in the process exploring “the myth that draws on the factual core but is often in tension with it,” he writes.


Sernett is one of two Maxwell faculty members helping to adjust popular understanding of Tubman’s history, the other being anthropologist Douglas Armstrong. For most of this decade, Armstrong has overseen archaeological projects at the homestead in Auburn, New York, where Tubman lived out almost 50 years of her life. His work, much of it conducted as field studies with Syracuse University students, is providing a version of Tubman that is more genuine, more three-dimensional than her iconic bearing.


“So little information about Tubman has been based on fact and so much based on myth and created history,” says Armstrong. “. . . Hopefully, we’re coming to the point where we can recognize her true contributions.”


Let’s start with a brief history lesson, with an eye out for imbedded myth: Harriet Tubman was born Araminta Ross, probably in 1822, the fifth of nine children, in Cambridge, Maryland. The daughter of slaves, “Minty” was nearly killed as a teen by a blow to her head from an iron weight, thrown at another slave by an angry overseer. She was severely injured and suffered from headaches, seizures, and narcolepsy for the rest of her life. (This piece of the myth appears to be true! Tubman is said to have been struck when she deliberately placed herself between the overseer and the other slave. Her resulting impairment—the sleeping spells—made her a less desirable slave.)


In 1844, Tubman married and around the same time shed her childhood nickname for her mother’s name, Harriet. Two years later, her owner died; she and her family were now at risk of being sold and dispersed. It was then that Tubman tapped into the Underground Railroad and escaped to Philadelphia. 


“It seemed strange that a figure who was so large a symbol should suffer such a dearth of historical information.”

It’s said that over the next decade she made approximately 19 trips to the eastern shore of Maryland, bringing 300 slaves to freedom and earning the title of the “Black Moses.” (Well, not quite. Kate Clifford Larson, author of another recent scholarly biography of Tubman, puts the number of trips between 11 and 13. Sernett says the documented number of slaves rescued is closer to 70, although an exact number is impossible to know. Additional slaves made it north on their own using instructions from Tubman, but that number is also impossible to calculate.) Those rescued include her parents, brothers, and other family members, many of whom settled in Canada and Central New York. As word of her success spread, the bounty for her capture rose to as high as $40,000. (False! According to Larson, “There never was a $40,000 reward for Tubman’s capture, a figure that became grossly exaggerated through the retelling of her story.”)


In 1859, William Henry Seward, New York senator and later Lincoln’s secretary of state, sold Tubman a home on the outskirts of Auburn, New York, where she settled her aged parents and other family members before joining northern abolitionists in support of Union efforts in the Civil War.


During the Civil War she headed back south, where she provided nursing care to black soldiers and the hundreds of newly liberated slaves who crowded Union camps. Her service also included spying and scouting behind Confederate lines, and she is said to have become the first woman to command an armed military raid when she guided Col. James Montgomery and his 2nd South Carolina black regiment up the Combahee River, routing out Confederate outposts; destroying stockpiles of cotton, food, and weapons; and liberating more than 700 slaves. (Only partly true! “While she was certainly a nurse, spy, and scout for the Union Army, I think the claims that she was the first female general and commanded a raid are wishful thinking,” says Sernett. )


After the war, Tubman lived for almost 50 years in Auburn, where she raised pigs and vegetables. She remarried (having been abandoned by her first husband) and was active as a suffragist and humanitarian, opening a home for indigent African American elderly, many of them former slaves.


During his 30 years teaching at SU, Milton Sernett has published seven books on African American history, most of them focusing on religion, and conducted extensive research on the abolition movement and Underground Railroad in Central New York. In his writings and his classroom, the subject of Harriet Tubman was no stranger. “You really can’t miss her in any facet of African American history that deals with cultural icons,” he says.


Milton Sernett image

Milton Sernett retired from the Maxwell School’s full-time faculty in 2005 after 30 years of teaching. A professor of history and African American studies and adjunct professor of religion, Sernett focused his teaching and research on African American religious history, the American South, the abolitionist movement, and American social reform movements. He is the author of nearly 50 articles, essays, or chapters; and of eight books, including North Star Country: Upstate New York and the Crusade for African American Freedom; Black Religion and American Evangelicalism; Bound for the Promised Land; African American Religion and the Great Migration; and Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory and History. Sernett has been a research associate at the W.E.B. DuBois Institute at Harvard and a Fulbright Scholar in Berlin.

Sernett was long puzzled as to why a figure who had clearly captured the public imagination had been neglected by professional historians. The last attempt at a serious biography about her had been written in 1943 by journalist Earl Conrad. “It seemed strange that a figure who was so large a symbol should suffer such a dearth of historical information,” he says.


As Sernett began research on a possible biography, the evidentiary trail led to early biographies written by Geneva, New York, resident Sarah Bradford, based on interviews with Tubman—works sponsored by Senator Seward and other Tubman supporters in the late 1880s in an attempt to get Tubman’s story out and improve her financial situation.


Sernett quickly found internal inconsistencies. “It gradually dawned on me that much of what we as Americans thought we knew about Harriet Tubman was not derived from good historical research but was a perpetuation of a larger-than-life story,” he says. “The symbol had overpowered the life, had overshadowed the historical person.”


Sernett began teaching a class, Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory and History. (He believes it to be the first such course on Tubman at any college or university.) In addition to studying Tubman’s life, the class wrestled with the question of why some historical figures are forgotten and others remembered, how American memory plays a role in choosing icons, and the extent to which individuals use icons in their own lives to inspire. The course syllabus became a loose outline for Sernett’s book of the same name, published by Duke University Press last fall.


“The interaction of the myth, memory, and history of Harriet Tubman is not unlike that of any American icon, be it George Washington or Abraham Lincoln,” says Sernett, who retired from full-time teaching in 2005. “One of the purposes of myth is to give status to the myth tellers within their own social environment. Harriet Tubman was very useful as different segments of American society struggled to achieve parity at the table. Whether it’s women or African Americans or the disabled, it’s amazing the variety of different groups who have adopted her as their symbol.” Because Tubman left no writings of her own and only limited information is available in the public record, Sernett says there has been “elbow room for groups to create whatever they wish as a symbol to honor her.”


By comparing the larger-than-life symbolic Tubman with the actual, historical Tubman and analyzing how the Tubman icon has changed over time, Sernett explores in his new book the interplay of history and myth in our national consciousness and illustrates that the various constructions of “Black Moses” reveal as much about their creators as they do about Tubman herself.


Setting the record straight does not diminish Tubman’s accomplishments. “The humanistic values enshrined in her life strike right at the core values of the American system—essentially, if you have enough faith and you struggle hard enough you can triumph over adversity,” says Sernett. “She exemplifies what we would all like to be.”


Until recently, the physical evidence related to Tubman only added to the misinformation. People driving through Auburn, New York, for example, were often excited when they passed the white clapboard house with a sign marking it as the home of Harriet Tubman.


The only problem is, Tubman never lived there. She lived next door, in a house that was originally wood, then rebuilt from bricks made on the property after the wood house burned in 1880.


The white house is one of several dwellings on the 32-acre property Tubman owned, which at one time included 10 structures and was a self-sustaining farm. It is believed that the white clapboard house was part of the Tubman’s Home for the Aged.


Much of this information has come to light—literally—only in the last decade, the result of work led by Maxwell School anthropologist and archaeologist Douglas Armstrong.


Armstrong has worked on issues related to African diaspora, slavery, and freedom for 25 years, though his primary focus was on archaeological investigations in the Caribbean. His work on Harriet Tubman, though, came somewhat by accident. In the early 1990s, as part of a public policy and archaeology class, Armstrong and his undergraduate students carried out an archaeological investigation of the former Wesleyan Methodist Church in Syracuse, which housed a piece of art that may have been made by African American refugees from slavery. Historical and archaeological investigations confirmed the importance of the church in the abolition movement. As part of a follow-up summer archaeological field school, Armstrong and his students visited several sites associated with people involved with the Freedom Train and/or Underground Railroad. One of those was the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn.


“I was surprised by how little was known of Tubman and the relative condition of the structures associated with her life,” says Armstrong of his first look at the property. “In time, I would come to understand the difficulties and hardships involved with maintaining the property, but my initial impression was, How could a site associated with such an important person in American history be so poorly known?”


Since 1903, Tubman’s property has been owned by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Auburn. (Tubman deeded it to her church because she couldn’t afford the upkeep, and wanted to ensure its continuation as a home for aging African Americans.) Since 1953, when they opened it to the public, members of the church have struggled to maintain the property as a popular tourist site. Though they undertook the task with a great sense of purpose and dedication to keeping Tubman’s memory alive, they did so with limited funding.


During a class visit to the Tubman Home, Armstrong asked about the location of a large brick building called John Brown Hall, evident in photos on display. He was told that the structure no longer exists and that no one knows its original location—only that it was somewhere back in the woods.


It was nearly lunch time. Armstrong told his students to go into the brush past the mown part of the grounds. There would be no lunch until they found the remains of the building.


“Fifteen minutes later, we were eating lunch on John Brown Hall,” he says. “There was this huge rock pile covered with brick. It was fairly obvious, but it was in the woods, lost to memory.”


Four years later, Armstrong set up his first archaeological project at the site. He returned the following summer to give a four-week-long “field school” course, now given every summer to a mix of undergraduate and graduate students—roughly half of them anthropology majors or master’s students, and the others just people interested in archaeology or in Tubman. Part of the six-credit course is textual; students read Tubman biographies, histories, and other references to her life and social network in Auburn. Students also learn the field techniques of archaeology—how to map, excavate, analyze artifacts, and correlate what they find in the context of where they’re working.


The first two summers were spent excavating around John Brown Hall, which had served as a dormitory or infirmary of the Home for the Aged. Subsequently, Armstrong and his team have surveyed the entire property, excavated a brick kiln, and excavated around Tubman’s house and yard. In the process, they have amassed a tremendous collection of material objects that, combined with other information, paint a picture of Tubman’s life in Auburn.


“For example, from tax records, we know how many pigs she had, what kind of orchards. Census records tell us who lived in the house, so we know that the objects we found belong to Tubman and her close relatives,” says Armstrong, a Maxwell Professor of Teaching Excellence and a Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor (S.U.’s highest teaching honor).


The most exciting find came in 2004, on the second-to-last day of excavation, just outside the door to Tubman’s house.


“All of a sudden, all of these artifacts just started coming out of the ground,” says Anna Hill, a doctoral candidate in anthropology and Armstrong’s research assistant on the Tubman project.


Earlier excavation had determined that Tubman’s original home had burned to the ground in 1880, and a new brick structure built on the original foundation. (Because Tubman’s second husband was a brick mason by trade and a brick kiln was excavated on the property, it is believed that the bricks for this house were made there.) What the team came upon was a builder’s trench that had been dug along one side of the foundation. “They had pulled all the burned material from the house, dumped it in this trench, and covered it up,” Hill says.


It was a huge discovery. “Everyone always thinks of Harriet Tubman as being poverty stricken,” says Hill. “But we uncovered beautiful glass vases, china, curtains. It completely changed how I imagined the inside of her house looking.”


Douglas Armstrong image

Douglas Armstrong (left) is shown with Reverend Paul and Christine Carter, directors and caretakers of the Tubman Home, in front of the brick house built after Tubman’s original house burned. Armstrong is an anthropological archaeologist specializing in historical archaeology, diaspora studies, world heritage site management, and public policy and archaeology. His scholarship revolves around work in the Caribbean on diaspora-related topics and in New York on public policy and “Freedom Trail” subjects. He is author of more than 25 articles or book chapters, most dealing with the African diaspora in the Caribbean; and two books, including Creole Transformation from Slavery to Freedom: Historical Archaeology of the East End Community, St. John, Virgin Islands. In 2002, Armstrong received Syracuse University’s “Spirit of the Lanterns Community Service Award.” He has also been honored by SU as a Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor.

In addition to completing the archaeology on the site, the key players at the Tubman Home want to see the property physically restored in a manner authentic to the Tubman era. To that end, Armstrong is working with Beth Crawford (of Crawford & Stearns Architects and Preservation Planners), who has spearheaded the physical restoration of the house; and consulting with the site’s directors, Reverend Paul Carter and his wife, Christine. (The Carters represent the A.M.E. Zion Church, which is funding the restoration, through Harriet Tubman Home Inc. In addition, SU Chancellor Nancy Cantor has provided University support for both the archaeological project and toward efforts to enhance the Tubman Home’s public interpretation mission.)


The Tubman property consists of two tracts, one section that included her home and farm and another with dwellings for her Home for the Aged. Unfortunately, the residential portion was home to a bus company for many years. Cinderblock additions turned the original barn into a bus garage. When hazmat abatement is complete—there is an old fuel tank that must go—the additions will be removed and the barn rebuilt to its earliest form. Using original photos and renderings, the exterior of the house will be restored with porches added to mimic the original, and a woodshed rebuilt on the rear.


“These buildings, rebuilt to their original state, will help tell an accurate story of Tubman’s life,” Crawford says. “We are trying to document the real story of the site so that we can interpret it correctly. There were a lot of misconceptions before Doug came to the project in the way the site was interpreted. So much of Doug’s work has explained what the site tells us about Tubman’s life.”


In 1998, Sernett and Armstrong were both present when then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton visited the Tubman site as part of her Save America’s Treasures tour and announced a $10,000 grant toward the restoration of the home. Now, Armstrong and the A.M.E. Zion Church hope to have the Tubman Home reborn as a national park. Armstrong is using his public policy expertise to help represent the church in its negotiations with the National Park Service. Having worked for eight years in association with the Virgin Islands National Park in St. John, he understands both organizations well—the National Park Service and the A.M.E. Zion Church. “I’m in a wonderful position where I can translate the hopes of each organization to the other,” Armstrong says.


If all goes well, there will be National Park status and a full-scale information and interpretation center at the Tubman site in time for the centennial of her death in 2013.


“Harriet Tubman has an incredible, unique history,” says Armstrong. “Here she was, a former slave, but she was also a property owner. She was a farmer. She was involved in the brick-making industry. So here you have a black-constructed house, from bricks that were probably made by blacks, on a site owned by blacks in the late 1800s.”


In addition to Sernett’s book, there have been three scholarly biographies of Tubman published since 2003. While today’s historians are attempting to set the Tubman record straight, perhaps her property is the best means for Tubman to tell her own story. “The life she led is one that is and should be inspirational,” says Armstrong. “We have things Tubman owned on a landscape she constructed. If we can present those material things in a setting that projects that inspiration to future generations, I think we’re making a huge contribution.”

Abraham Lincoln 

Martin Luther King Jr. (born Michael King Jr.; January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American Christian minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. King is best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, inspired by his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.


King led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and later became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). As president of the SCLC, he then led an unsuccessful 1962 struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, and helped organize the nonviolent 1963 protests in Birmingham, Alabama. He helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.


On October 14, 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped organize the Selma to Montgomery marches. In his final years, he expanded his focus to include opposition towards poverty and the Vietnam War. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover considered him a radical and made him an object of the FBI's COINTELPRO from 1963 on. FBI agents investigated him for possible communist ties, recorded his extramarital liaisons and reported on them to government officials, and, in 1964, mailed King a threatening anonymous letter, which he interpreted as an attempt to make him commit suicide.[1]


Before his death, King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor People's Campaign, when he was assassinated on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee. His death was followed by riots in many U.S. cities. Allegations that James Earl Ray, the man convicted of killing King, had been framed or acted in concert with government agents persisted for decades after the shooting.


King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a holiday in cities and states throughout the United States beginning in 1971; the holiday was enacted at the federal level by legislation signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Hundreds of streets in the U.S. have been renamed in his honor, and a county in Washington was rededicated for him. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 2011.

This is a
Heading

 
 

THIS IS A HEADING

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Massa sapien faucibus et molestie ac. Nulla facilisi morbi tempus iaculis urna id volutpat. Sit amet justo donec enim diam vulputate ut. Tempor orci dapibus ultrices in iaculis nunc sed. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna. Non quam lacus suspendisse faucibus interdum posuere lorem ipsum.

Contact

your.email@example.com

355 Template Street

San Francisco, California 94110

+1 (555) 555 1000

SIGN UP For OUR NEWSLETTER

© Copyright Harriet Tubman Safe House