Advocates successfully push for recognition of Harriet Tubman’s legacy

Photo by Feven Gerezgiher Supporters rallied at the State Capitol to urge people to work in the spirit of Harriet Tubman.

Gov. Walz declares March 10 Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Day

This week, Governor Tim Walz signed a proclamation declaring Thursday, March 10, 2022, as Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Day in observance of the 200th anniversary of her birth this month.

In a tweet Thursday, Walz wrote the declaration is “to honor her legacy and commitment to freedom and rededicate ourselves to the timeless principles she upheld.”

“After escaping from slavery herself in 1849, Harriet Tubman led hundreds of enslaved people to freedom through the Underground Railroad. She became known as the “Moses of her People” through her social and political activism to help ensure that our nation always honored its promise of liberty and opportunity for all,” reads the proclamation.

Tubman also served as a scout, spy, and nurse to African American soldiers during the U.S. Civil War. After the war, she purchased a 25-acre farm to establish the Harriet Tubman Home for Aged & Indigent Negroes to care for those in need.

Tubman fought for women’s suffrage and human rights until her death on March 10, 1912. She was buried with military honors in Fort Hill Cemetery in New York.

Anika Bowie, founder, and CEO of Run like Harriet, which consults and coaches Black women to run for political office, pushed for the proclamation with the help of Toshira Garraway, founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, and other civil rights organizations, including the Minneapolis NAACP, Black Civic Network, Sweet Potato Comfort Pie, and the Planting Seeds Growing Justice Institute.

Supporters rallied at the State Capitol on Thursday afternoon to urge others to take up Tubman’s work.

Photo by Feven Gerezgiher Toshira Garraway speaking at the Capitol on March 10

“[Tubman] would’ve been great if she made one trip on the Underground Railroad. But she went back 19 times. She went back to get those that were left behind. We, as a community, have got to stop leaving our brothers and sisters behind,” said Rev. Darryl Spence with New Hope Baptist church.

Beyond the proclamation, community and political leaders introduced legislation they hope will get passed in the upcoming legislative session. “I want to make sure that we not only honor Harriet Tubman with a proclamation,” said Rep. John Thompson (D-67A). “We’ve been getting proclamations and resolutions since the 1800s.”

He continued, “We want some work to be done to remove systemic racism and to honor our brothers and sisters who were captured and brought here to slavery. Honor them by first admitting, then apologizing, then repairing the harm that is caused over and over and over again to African American community throughout this state.”

Thompson authored bill HF3850 to establish the Minnesota Migration Act, which would provide funding to study and develop reparation proposals for descendants of chattel slavery who reside in Minnesota.

Garraway, whose fiancé Justin Teigan died following an encounter with St. Paul police in 2009, is also pushing for the passage of HF717. The bill would extend the statute of limitations for seeking redress to police officer actions to five years.

“[Harriet’s] spirit is so much in my heart,” Garraway said, reiterating historic abolitionist’s 19 trips. Likewise, Garraway has become the voice for a tragic fraternity, lending her support to other relatives of police violence as they navigate their grief, being under the public eye, and navigating the justice system.

“It keeps us going to know that we can follow in her footsteps,” she said.