Charles L. Blockson, a renowned philanthropist, recently donated 39 artifacts from the life of Harriet Tubman to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Lonnie G. Bunch, a historian and the founding director of the museum (scheduled to open in 2015), announced the donation saying “Each object in this collection humbled us, excited us and moved us to tears.” Among the items are Tubman’s personal hymnal, a framed portrait of the famous Underground Railroad “conductor,” a beige linen and silk shawl that was a gift from Queen Victoria, and one of the few existing photographs of Tubman.
Blockson, whose ancestors escaped with Tubman, is a collector of slave narratives, rare texts, and artifacts related to African American history. The Tubman artifacts were willed to him by a great grand-niece of Tubman’s. In a ceremony that both announced the donation and marked the 77th anniversary of Tubman’s death, those gathered sang the song that Tubman’s friends had hummed for her as she lay dying: “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”
Famous as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad during the 1850s, Tubman had herself grown up as a slave and escaped to the North. She is credited with helping hundreds escape slavery. Over the years, she eluded bounty hunters who sought her capture—and rewards as high as $40,000. During the Civil War she returned to the South as a nurse, scout, and spy for the Union government. Her knowledge of the location of ammunition depots, cotton storehouses, and slaves eager to be liberated helped guide several raids into Confederate-held areas. Eventually, Tubman turned her home into a Home for Indigent and Aged Negroes.
- Collector Donates Harriet Tubman Artifacts to African American History Museum
This article recounts the recent donation by philanthropist Charles L. Blockson of artifacts belonging to Harriet Tubman, which will now reside at the Smithsonian.
(Source: Washington Post, March 11, 2010)
- National Museum of African American History and Culture: News Release
This is the Smithsonian’s press release of the National Museum of African American History and Culture announcing acceptance of the donation of Tubman artifacts.
(Source: nmaahc.si.edu; accessed March 10, 2010)
- Harriet Tubman
This History.com biography covers all the major events of Tubman’s life; includes links to these related topics: Slave Rebellions, Slavery, Abolitionist Movement, Underground Railroad, American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
(Source: www.history.com; accessed March 31, 2010)
The definitive Web site for the legacy of Harriet Tubman, the “Moses of Her People”; includes links to documents, photos, and other Internet sites, such as the Harriet Tubman Home in New York.
(Source: harriettubman.com; accessed March 31, 2010)