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Underground Railroad Archives - Institute of the Black World 21st Century

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass Statue Torn Down on Anniversary of Famous July 4 Speech

By News & Current Affairs

The landmark 1852 speech by the Black abolitionist was titled, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” By Chris Walker, Truthout — A statue of Frederick Douglass, a formerly enslaved Black abolitionist in the mid-1800s who helped to transport other enslaved people seeking freedom on the Underground Railroad, was removed from its pedestal in a park in Rochester, New York, by vandals over the weekend. The statue was…

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Stewart's Canal in Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument

Harriet Tubman and a National Legacy of Midnight Skies and Silent Stars

By Commentaries/Opinions, News & Current Affairs, Reparations

By Todd Lookingbill, HNN — Cynthia Erivo, who is nominated for best actress in a leading role in this weekend’s Oscars, stars in the gripping biopic “Harriet.” The movie, which tells the story of abolitionist Harriet Tubman, captures the miraculous physical, emotional, and spiritual journey of Harriet Tubman as she escapes from slavery to become an American icon. Of course, the horrors of slavery and the courage of the enslaved heroes that…

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A portrait from 1868 of abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

Faith made Harriet Tubman fearless as she rescued slaves

By Editors' Choice, Reparations

By Robert Gudmestad — Millions of people voted in an online poll in 2015 to have the face of Harriet Tubman on the US$20 bill. But many might not have known the story of her life as chronicled in a recent film, “Harriet.” Harriet Tubman worked as a slave, spy and eventually as an abolitionist. What I find most fascinating, as a historian of American slavery, is how belief in God helped Tubman…

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Harriet Tubman

Uplifting the Liberator, Harriet Tubman: Unmasking the Imposter, Harriet of Hollywood

By Dr. Maulana Karenga

By Dr. Maulana Karenga — Part 1. The conversations and controversy surrounding the movie “Harriet” of Hollywood seems, at first sight, to be simply about Harriet Tubman, the liberator, the Harriet Tubman of history. But in a larger sense, it is about Black people, about: how we see ourselves; how we see our heroes and heroines; how we understand and honor our history, especially the history of the Holocaust of…

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Former enslaved people in a Southern town shortly after the end of the Civil War, circa 1865.

American Slavery and ‘the Relentless Unforeseen’

By Editors' Choice, Reparations

This essay is an adaptation of the fourth annual Philip Roth Lecture, delivered at the Newark Public Library on November 4, 2019. The lecture began with an appreciation of Roth’s merging of fiction and history. An admirer of great historical writing, Roth understood that, to be truly great, it had to grapple with what he called, in The Plot Against America, “the relentless unfolding of the unforeseen.” Flipped on its…

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Underground Railroad

The Native Americans Who Assisted the Underground Railroad

By Editors' Choice, Reparations

By Roy E. Finkenbine — In an interview conducted in 2002, the late Helen Hornbeck Tanner, an influential historian of the Native American experience in the Midwest best known for her magisterial Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History (1987), reflected on the considerable record of “coexistence and cooperation” between African Americans and Indians in the region. According to Tanner, “[an] important example of African and Indian cooperation was the Indian-operated Underground Railroad….

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