Harriet Tubman Could Write and So Can I

One of Philadelphia’s and the nation’s leading collectors of African-American artifacts has given the Smithsonian over historic artifacts owned by former slave, abolitionist, and Underground Railroad Conductor Extrodinaire Harriet Tubman to a to be a part of the National Museum of African-American History scheduled to open in 2015 here in Washinton, DC.

Charles Blockson, curator emeritus of the Charles Blockson Afro-American collection at Temple University, received 39 personal items from the estate of Underground Railroad Conductor Harriet Tubman from Tubman’s great-niece, who willed them to Blockson two years ago because she believed that he, Blockson says, would know what to do with them.  source

When I took a look at some of the photos posted of the items in the Tubman collection, one of the struck me in a way that I can’t explain.  You see, in her hymnal Harriet Tubman Davis wrote her name.  She would write her own name!  She didn’t leave and X as her mark and this was more than a meer scribble or attempt at writing.  I saw the handwriting of a woman who shouldn’t have been able to clearly create letters with pen, let alone bring hundreds of slaves to freedom.  I felt for someone who knew the true power of being able to read and write.  It made me think a little more about the words I’m able to write.  And about the fact that it is a privilage that my ancestors fought for.

I write here, on this blog.  I’m not a freedom fighter in the way that Harriet was, but I do want to make others think.  Perhaps I can even inspire or motivate others to action.  Perhaps something here will make someone’s mind a little more free.  Make them question and reflect on race, racism, blackness, and our community.  I know that words, typed, written, or read…they have power.  Thank you Harriet, for that little reminder written in a church hymal.  They are a blessing to me.


Filed under african american, black history, black women, blog, civil rights, d.c., history, news, slavery, society

2 Responses to Harriet Tubman Could Write and So Can I

  1. sorry dear, but it’s to my knowledge that harriet tubman could not read nor write. most likely she had one of her white quaker/abolitionist friends to write it for her or possibly another slave who had illegally learned to read & write as so many slaves were apt to do back then.

    however, that should not take away from your message. countless african-american slaves/people died so that we (their descendants) would have the OPPORTUNITY, the FREEDOM, the RIGHT to learn.

    it’s a shame that so many of us take it for granted.

    • Well Labellblu, show me some proof (send me a reference or something). Until then I’m going to believe that the woman could at least write her name.

      Just because you can’t read or write on a certain level, doesn’t mean you can’t write your name. We teach lil kids who can read to do that in kindergarden and pre-school, so there is hope.

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