Sunday, April 12, 2009

Harriet Tubman: Road to Freedom

During the period of slavery in the United States, the fight for freedom and equality seemed to be a war that would for the blacks. One of the individuals who had a significant impact on the fight for freedom was Harriet Tubman, most well known for her contribution to the success of the Underground Railroad.

Born as Araminta Ross, Harriet Tubman was abolitionist, Humanitarian, and also a spy for the Union throughout the American Civil War. The exact date of her birth is unknown, though the general year in which she was born is known to be circa 1820 in Dorchester County, Maryland. Throughout her early life, and as a child, she was obviously, like nearly all slaves, whipped and beaten by her numerous owners while serving as a slave. She also had the unfortunate luck of enduring the years of her life from childhood up through her death suffering various medical complications due to blunt object trauma to her head. A fellow slave had left the fields without permission from his owner who, in retaliation, picked up a weight and hurtled it toward the slave. Tubman had refused to help stop the slave and as a result, the weight struck her in the head (it fell short of its target, the other slave). The various medical problems she obtained from this injury powerful visionary and dream activity (Wikipedia - Harriet Tubman), headaches, seizures, and hyperinsomnia. Being a very religious woman, she claimed her dreams and visions to be 'premonitions from God'. She has be neglected the care that she needed because her owner saw her as being "not worth a sixpence" and was promptly send back into the fields to work two days later.

In 1844 she married John Tubman, a freed black man and took his last name. She also changed her first name to Harriet (from Araminta) in honor of her mother. Later, in 1849, Tubman managed to escape from slavery to Philadelphia, though later returned in order to help her family to freedom as well. She achieved her freedom via the Underground Railroad; a combination of covert roads, tunnels, and houses ran by freed [former] slaves, Quakers, and abolitionists.

Her journey to freedom was not an easy one and quite dangerous as well. In order to avoid capture from 'slave catchers', those who hunted down slaves in order to collect the rewards, she primarily traveled and night and was guided by the North Star, however, the exact route that she took during this journey is not certain. Upon her arrival in Philadelphia, she soon began having thoughts about her family that she had left behind. During her time in Philadelphia, she served in a number of small jobs in order to make some income and save her earnings. Later, she was forced to head into Canada due to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 passed by the US Congress which allowed law enforcement officials to hunt down and capture escaped slaves, even those who resided in states that had outlawed slavery.

Eventually Tubman returned to the place in which she has fled from—she had received news that her niece and niece's children were set to sold in Cambridge, Maryland. She arrived in Baltimore with the arrangement for her brother-in-law, Tom Tubman who was a freed black, to help hide her until the date for the sale of her family arrived. Her niece's husband , John Bowley, is the one who placed the winning bid for his wife. As he caused a distraction by making fake arrangements to pay for his win, his wife and her children fled to a safe house nearby. As nightfall came along, Bowley transported the family by log canoe to Baltimore, later meeting up with Tubman who then lead the family to freedom in Philadelphia.

Months later, when spring arrived, Tubman returned to Maryland and aided many other families on their venture to the north, including her brother Moses. In time she also managed to guide her elderly parents as well as much of the rest of her family to safety while earning the nickname 'Moses' based off her guidance to so many to freedom.

In 1861, when the Civil war broke out, Tubman assisted the Union forces. She provided as a nurse in Port Royal where she made cure and remedies using plants and helping officers with dysentery. She also served as a cook and as a spy for the Union army.

Tubman played a huge role as being the first woman who led an armed assault, more specifically, the Combahee River Raid. During this raid, over 700 slaves were rescued. She made frequent visits to Auburn visiting her parents and family. Even though Tubman served the Union for many years, she never any pay for her service and it was not until 1899 until she received her pension for her service from the US government. After the war, Tubman returned the Auburn where she spent the rest of her years until her death.

Tubman was an activist when it came to social issues, one of which was her contribution to the fight for women's rights. On March 10, 1913, Harriet Tubman died due to pneumonia roughly around the age of 93. She has become an important figure in American history through all of her accomplishments.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Boston Tea Party - Blog #2

In 1773, the Parliament of Great Britain passed the Tea Act, which would lift duties off of the East India Company that were being paid in London in order to help the company in its time of financial troubles. This resulted in the American colonists being able to buy the imported tea for nearly half the original price, however, the Parliament still expected the colonists to pay duties imposed upon the imported tea. This led to protest and rebellion from the colonists and eventually led to the occurrence of the Boston Tea Party. So, what was the Boston Tea Party and what affect did it have on history?

After passing the Tea Act, three ships; Dartmouth, Eleanor, and Beaver; arrived into the Boston harbor to deliver a large imported shipment of tea. Dartmouth was the first of the three to make it to the harbor, arriving in late November 1773. However, the Tea Act did not mean that there were no duties levied upon the colonists. In order to unload the cargo of tea and receive it, the colonists would have to pay the duties imposed upon the shipment of tea. With this fact, the colonists refused to land the tea and pay the duties resulting in much tension between the port authorities and the Sons of Liberty. Shouts of anger and protest erupted from the colonists against Dartmouth, the East India Company, the British Parliament, and Governor Thomas Hutchinson who was attempting to have the tea landed in the harbor.

Governor Thomas Hutchinson

Due to the outcry of the colonists and their refusal to accept the tea, both the owner and captain of Dartmouth agreed to sail and deliver the tea back to Britain. This agreement was not only with Dartmouth, but also the two other ships en route to Boston, Eleanor and Beaver. In response to these agreements, Governor Hutchinson, in his feverish struggle to have the tea landed, would not allow the ships to depart the harbor until the tea had been unloaded. With this last occurrence, commission of the infamous Boston Tea Party was set.

On December 16, 1773, the evening prior the date that the due had been set to be landed, Captain Roach, the captain of Dartmouth, appealed to Governor Hutchinson's ruling in refusing to let the ships depart without unloaded their cargo. On this same night, a large meeting based on the entire issue was being held at Boston's Old South Meeting House. Governor Hutchinson refused this request to which Captain Roach reported back to the meeting house, informing the attendees of the his refusal. With this, Samuel Adams stated "This meeting can do nothing more to save the country". With these words, the Sons of Liberty sprang to action in an act aimed directly against Britain.

On that evening of December 16, 1773, shortly after Samuel Adam's words at the meeting, the Sons of Liberty dressed up in disguise as Mohawk and Narrangansett Indians armed with small hatches and clubs. They headed toward Grinffin's Wharf in Boston Harbor where the three ships Dartmouth, Eleanor, and Beaver were docked. The men quickly brought crate upon crate of tea from the cargo hold to the deck of the ships, opened them, and dumped them into the harbor. By the time dawn arrived, sum 342 crates of tea had been dumped into the harbor equaling to 90,000lbs (45 tons) with an estimated value of £10,000 (based on 2007 currency value, approximately $1.87 million US Dollars). There was a fourth ship that had been en route to Boston Harbor, though it never arrived due to a mishap - it had run aground in Provincetown. This ship had a cargo of 58 crates of tea which arrived safely to Boston for consumption.

Of course, this event led to retaliation from the Parliament of Great Britain. It was not until January of 1774 that the news of the Boston Tea Party reached Britain and it was not official until March of 1774. The response received from Britain to this event were the Intolerable Acts also known as the Coercive Acts. Included in this set of acts were the Boston Port Act, which closed the Boston Harbor until the East India Company had received payment for the loss of goods in the Boston Tea Party; the Massachusetts Government Act, which brought the government of Massachusetts under the power of Great Britain; the Administration of Justice Act, which allowed accused royal official the option to be transferred to either another colony or to Great Britain if the governor believed that he could not receive a fair trial in Massachusetts; the Quartering Act, which allowed the governor to house soldiers in other building in the case that suitable quarters could not be provided; and the Quebec Act, which was not related to any of the events that took place in Boston, but it generally broadened the boundaries of Quebec in turn making it larger. It is believed that the Massachusetts Government Act is the one to have received the most protest and objection from the colonists.

The Boston Tea Party has proved itself to be one of the precursors to the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The reactions generated as a result of the Boston Tea Party had an influence on revolutionaries of the thirteen colonies who were fighting for their independence and freedom from Great Britain. Not only that, but the Boston Tea Party proved to be a worldwide inspiration to many activists and reform leaders, including groups to this day that are protesting against government spending of the Economic Stimulus Bill of 2009. Various groups adopted the "Tea Party" as the name and/or symbol of their group. The Boston Tea Party is one of the many crucial events in history that led to the independence of America.