Before there were telephones, Morse Code, emails, text messaging, or even instant messaging there was the “Talking Drum”. The talking drum is an instrument that mimics the rhythm and tone of human speech. Dating back to between the 7th and 13th centuries, it is believed that the talking drum may have originated from three possible sources: Ghana Empire, the Hausa people, and/or the Yoruba people. Talking drums have many different names depending on their origin including, Dondo, Tamanin, Lunna and Dundon; to name a few. Each African tribe had its own rhythmic patterns and sounds when playing the instrument; creating their own musical “dialect”. The talking drum was used as a form of communication; being that it was often faster and easier to communicate with other groups via drumming rather than delivering in-person messages. The talking drum was often played during ceremonies and as a form of entertainment. It should be noted that talking drums are not limited to African and have also been found in Asia as well.
Christmas Eve 1854 – Harriet Tubman returned to her Maryland home to free her brothers Ben and Henry. Her coded message: “Tell my brothers to be always watching unto prayer and when the good old ship of Zion comes along, to be ready to step on board.” This was the second time that she attempted to help them escape. The first time was 1849 when she escaped. Ben and Henry became scared and turned back.
Traveling more than 100 miles, they arrived at William Still’s Anti-Slavery office in Philadelphia on Dec. 29, 1854.
Time to educate ourselves on the racist history of the national anthem. The Star Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key. He wrote the song shortly after being in a battle with the British Colonial Marines. The Colonial Marines were a group of enslaved black soldiers who were promised their freedom in exchange for being in the British Army. Key was apparently a little salty about the encounter even though his troops won. Key was pro slavery and thus, probably was none to happy about engaging in combat with blacks whom he thought were inferior.
Dr. Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the Trump Administration described enslaved Africans who came to the U.S. in slave ships as “immigrants” who had a dream….. He made these comments during a speech to HUD employees. No disrespect to those who willingly came here as immigrants, but enslaved Africans came here in chains and were forced to work for free. There is no logical way that Dr. Carson could or should refer to them as “immigrants”. Check out the video clip and see it for yourself!. Video clip is from USA Today.
Launched on February 26, 1872, Cookman Institute was an early forerunner of the historically black colleges and universities. Rev. S.B. Darnell founded Cookman Institute in Jacksonville, FL. It was named after Rev. Alfred Cookman who was a Methodist Minister. Rev. Cookman donated funds toward construction of the new building. Cookman Institute was closely affiliated with Clark University. It was the first the educational institution for African Americans in Florida and remained so for quite some time. In operation for close to 50 years, Cookman Institute touched the lives of thousands of students. Many of Cookman’s first students were ex-slaves. Continue reading “Cookman Institute: Pioneering Institution That Proceeded Historically Black Colleges & Universities”→
David Walker (1785-1830), was the son of an enslaved father and a free black mother. Because his mother was free, Walker was also considered a free citizen. His freedom, however, did not shield him from witnessing firsthand the injustices of slavery. On one occasion, Walker witnessed an enslaved boy who was forced to whip his mother until she died. This experience and others throughout his life rallied him to become an activist and an abolitionist. As an adult, Walker settled in Boston, MA. Though Boston was a free city in the North, discrimination was still very prevalent there. Walker opened a clothing store in Boston in the 1820’s. He also began to associate with other black activists and abolitionists and became a writer for the first African American Newspaper in the U.S. “Freedom’s Journal”. Walker was also involved with the Underground Railroad providing clothing to those trying to escape slavery.
We are often told about the history of slavery in the United States. However, Canada also participated in the slave trade. In comparison to the U.S., the number of people estimated to be enslaved in Canada was much lower. Still those enslaved in Canada experienced the same mistreatment and abuse. We often hear narratives of enslaved people escaping to freedom in Canada. However there were also groups of slaves in Canada who escaped to freedom in the United States by crossing the border into to Detroit, MI. The stories of those enslaved in Canada has often gone untold or been ignored. Slavery was legal in Canada for 200 years. Continue reading “An Untold Story: Slavery In Canada”→
A newly discovered photo of a “younger” Harriet Tubman (1819? – 1913) is getting lots of publicity in the media! The photo was discovered among other pictures belonging to a deceased friend of Tubman’s. It is estimated that Tubman is in her early to mid 40’s in the picture. Her photo along with 44 other photos will be auctioned on March 30 by Swann Galleries. The photo was likely taken just after the Civil War. Tubman was then residing in Auburn, NY on land that would later become the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park.
Tubman also made the news in 2016 after it was announced that her image would be added to the $20 bill beginning in 2030 replacing, President Andrew Jackson. While many of us are familiar with Tubman’s bravery and heroism in bringing hundreds of people to freedom, via the Underground Railroad, I’d like to share some lesser known facts about her life!
Tubman’s was given the name Araminta Ross at birth (nickname: Minty). She adopted the name Harriet after running away to escape slavery to aid in disguising her identity. Harriet was her mother’s name. Her last name, “Tubman” was taken when she married her first husband John Tubman who was a free man.
It is estimated that Tubman walked approximately 90 when she escaped slavery. No one knows exactly how long it took her to make the trip.
Tubman’s husband was not interested in following her North. He remarried a free woman of color after Tubman’s escape and had several children with her; leaving Harriet heart-broken. She would later remarry Nelson Davis in 1869. He was 22 years younger than Tubman. They remained married for 19 years until his death.
Tubman suffered from a health condition that would cause her to fall asleep suddenly without warning. She also experienced severe headaches, and seizures. The condition (possibly temporal epilepsy) was caused due to a head injury she received while enslaved at the age of 12. She was hit in the head with a 2 pound iron weight that was thrown at another enslaved African but hit Tubman instead. After her head injury she began to see visions which she believed were from God.
Tubman never had any biological children. However, she and her second husband Nelson Davis adopted a child (a girl), Gertie in 1874.
When rescuing enslaved persons, she threatened to shoot any of her “passengers” who thought to turn back.
Tubman was a soldier, spy, and nurse for the Union Army during the civil war. She was known for her ability to treat dysentery successfully using native herbs.
She was the first woman to lead an armed war expedition during the Combahee River Raid with 300 other African American soldiers. 3 gun boats were used in the raid to liberate 700 enslaved blacks in South Carolina. She would later be denied payment for her war time service and was only able to collect a widow’s pension from her husband’s death which was $20/month. Ironically, in 2016, Tubman was selected to replace Andrew Jackson on the new $20 bill which will be released in 2030.
In the late 1890’s Tubman had brain surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital due to pain and “buzzing” in her head which made it difficult for her to sleep (likely related to her childhood injury). She refused to take anesthesia and instead chewed a bullet during the operation. This was something she had seen soldiers do during the civil war when their limbs were amputated.
She established a home for the aged and indigent in Auburn, NY where she spent the last years of her life.
Harriet Tubman’s life and legacy is certainly one that deserves to be celebrated! She was truly a phenomenal woman.
In 1841, Madison Washington, an enslaved African American started a slave revolt aboard the ship, “Creole”. The vessel was taking 130 enslaved people from Virginia who were to be sold in New Orleans. Madison Washington had escaped to freedom in Canada, but returned to try and free his wife. He was captured and returned to slavery in Virginia. Washington and the enslaved men and women traveling aboard the “Creole” endured deplorable conditions and abuse. Led by Washington, 12 other enslaved people onboard the “Creole”, launched a revolt. One of the slave traders was killed and crew members were also wounded. Washington and the other slaves were able to take control of the ship and demanded that it be sailed to Nassau, Bahamas. Continue reading “Madison Washington: Architect Of The Most Successful Slave Revolt In U.S. History”→