Monday, August 7, 2023

Maybe There is Hope

  This weekend an American icon stepped out of history  to make an appearance in our town.  Harriet Tubman, hero of the Underground Railroad, is known to every American for her role in leading around 70 friends and family through dangerous Slave States to sweet freedom in the North. 

  A bronzed monument, “Journey to Freedom” by North Carolina sculptor Wesley Wofford, is on a national tour and drew hundreds of people of every race to its unveiling in a little city park on the waterfront. 

  Tubman was born into slavery in Maryland in 1820. At age 5, she was hired out by her owners as a nursemaid, field hand, cook and woodcutter. At age 12 an overseer tried to force her to participate in the beating of another enslaved person. She refused and was struck in the head.  From this incident she suffered seizures for the rest of her life. 

  In 1849, Tubman heard rumors that she was about to be sold away from her husband and family and set out to escape north to New York, a free state. 

  Over the next 10 years, despite the dangers of returning over and over to a slave state, Tubman did return, to save 70 friends and relatives on the “Underground Railroad”. Not only did she serve as their guide and protector on the journey, she also assisted  them in finding work and establishing  new lives in free states and Canada.

  During the Civil War, this brave lady left her own freedom to come here to South Carolina and join the Union cause, serving as a scout, nurse, laundress, and a spy. 

   While Tubman herself never set foot in Georgetown, one of her first rescues came here, her nephew James Bowley. Tubman also funded the boy’s education to become a lawyer and Bowley became a distinguished citizen and a member of the State House of Representatives. Also, right after the Civil War in the South conditions were desperate with few resources or supplies available for the recently freed enslaved people. Tubman, who had first hand knowledge of the dire situation, used her influence among other abolitionists to get funds to Georgetown to help out.
   With the state of race relations in this country, it was heartwarming to see the large mixed crowd on Saturday for the unveiling ceremony.  And every time we have driven down Front Street since, there have been parents with children gathered around the figures. 

  Politicians can take the books out of our libraries, the facts out of our history classes, the truth out of our colleges — but maybe a spark of hope, for all races of humanity, remains, here in the small towns and the families in America. 
Rainey Park, Old Post Office in the background