tv Harriet Tubman and Womens Suffrage CSPAN August 18, 2020 10:10pm-11:24pm EDT
>> harriet tubman is celebrated for her work as an abolitionist, underground railroad conductor, and union army scout during the civil war. next, karen hill of the harriet tubman house talks about harriet tubman's lesser-known role as an activist in the women's suffrage movement. the president woodrow wilson house hosts this conversation as part of a series commemorating the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. >> good evening. i am the executive director at the woodrow wilson house. it is truly my pleasure to welcome you to the first of a series of speaking events we are going to have on a suffrage series. the wilson house, if you have not been here before, is part of the national trust for historic preservation.
wilson and his wife edith lived in this house. edith turned it over to the national trust in 1961 on her death. it has been lovingly cared for. we welcome you tonight. i wanted to tell you about how we started this speaker series. our senior manager said to me this summer when i first started the job, there is a commission on the suffrage and i think we should go to that meeting. it is the women's suffrage centennial commission. i said ok. i will go with you. we went down to the library of congress and we sat at a big table. they were about 20 women in the room. a big square table. there were another 20 women on the telephone. everyone goes around introducing themselves. they are from the alice paul
house, this commission and that commission. from the national portrait gallery. all these places. it comes around to us and introduce myself. i'm from the woodrow wilson house. there was a collectives suck and sigh, and maybe one or two cases of whiplash. there was no oxygen left in the room. they turned to look to us to say, do you know where you are? what are you doing here? yes. who are these crazy women attending this meeting? hi said we are not crazy. we are passionate. we are passionate about telling stories. we are passionate about telling inclusive, diverse stories in this house. that is why it all formulated. it is my pleasure to have you here to start this with us.
we are embarking on something we are very excited about. with that i will introduce you -- let's see. i am thrilled that karen is here. the woman's suffrage centennial commission was created by congress in 2017 to ensure suitable observance of the centennial of the passage and ratification of the 19th amendment to the constitution to provide for women's suffrage. it is led by susan collins, and a bipartisan group of women leaders. they have welcomed us, truly welcomed us and embraced us, helping to commemorate history, celebrate the story and educate future generations of learners and leaders. karen hill is here tonight. she is the president and ceo of
the harriet tubman home and national historic park, which was established to operate the home of harriet tubman. in her role, karen hill shares core values with visitors who two of the tour the property. she also established tubman's home as a national historic park. please help me with a warm welcome to karen hill. [applause] >> good evening, everyone. good evening, everyone. thank you for coming tonight. it is such a pleasure to see you all in attendance tonight. i want to thank ms. karen hill and i look forward to a brilliant conversation.
as elizabeth said i am the curator of the house here at woodrow wilson's final home. after the presidency he moved into this home from the white house in march of 1921 and lived here until 1924. two years ago with the leadership of the national trust of historic preservation and in concert with the woodrow wilson house decided it was extremely important and urgent to address woodrow wilson's legacy on race by exploring more african american history of the era and that era was preceded wilson's presidency and to highlight womens history in particular because woodrow wilson was in office when the 19th amendment was ratified. this first series is starting to look back at the beginnings of the movement. what is the connection with woodrow wilson and harriet tubman. she obviously is one of the
most famous women, people, african-americans in u.s. history. we thought it would be interesting to explore one of her lesser-known legacies, her role not just for women's suffrage and supporting that movement but for women's rights more broadly. we will get into conversations about that. i will start first -- your mic should be on. most of us are familiar with harriet tubman, the leader of the underground railroad. the most of her people as she was called and brought enslaved people from the south to the north seeking freedom.
she emancipated herself. looking back to the women's suffrage movement and understanding the falls convention happened in 1848, harriet kevin was still enslaved in maryland. harriet tubman was still enslaved in maryland. -- as well as with african wreck in women's clubs like the national association of colored women. considering her amazing story from enslaved to free, and the racial divide within the movement, tubman's stance on women's suffrage and how did she articulate her position? >> that is a great question and good evening everybody. glad to be here. let me tell you a little let me just tell you bit about tubman first. a little bit about tough man first. and then it is easier to back into where she stood on the question of suffrage and it's complicated history. how many if you have seen the movie "harriet"?
a good number of people. you know harriet tubman had this innate ability to see far beyond her circumstance. far beyond. she had seven core values. faith, freedom, family, community, social justice, self-determination and equality. those were her touchstones. even when she was enslaved in maryland. for those of you who saw the movie, you know the power of faith. her faith guided her walk, her steps. that is what led her to her freedom journey for herself and
principally her family and friends. she freed about 70 people from the eastern shore of maryland and provided direct instruction for 70 more. in the quest for her to have a more personal relationship with her god she went deeper. that is a part of a liberation theology. she was a testament to liberation theology. when you said she was emancipated, her coming from the eastern shore of maryland up through saint catherine and as far north as auburn, that was an important but only part of her liberation theology. so everyone thinks of harriet as familiar with the
underground railroad and all she did, not to diminish that because it provided frederick douglass the empirical data he needed to have for his gift of oratory to talk about the importance of the value of freedom. harriet, through her faith walk new that was one part of her emancipation. that is how she got to suffrage. ok? it was becoming free along the eastern shore, and then becoming more emancipated as a woman in her own right. if you saw the movie, she -- people were challenging her. you can't do this. i can do this. don't tell me what i can't do. that was very profound. don't tell me what i can't do. i know what i can do. she was very determined. she took very good care of her
vessel. she lived to be 91 years of age taking good care of her vessel while continuing her work. she was truly a pacifist, but she knew there were some just wars. i.e., the civil war. that is why she lent her person, herself to that journey. and she challenged the u.s. army. she was a nurse scout and spy. she actually led the first armed raid by a woman into battle. along the combi river in south carolina. i have been on the banks when they dedicated it to harriet tubman. they dedicated the bridge that runs along beaufort and college counties. when i was doing the research about that i discovered that highway 17 was determined by
the department of transportation. it is one of the most dangerous roads in america. one of the most perilous. i said, how perfect is it that harriet would be a part of the process of adjusting that and bringing people together and connecting people? her emancipation continues today. it continues today because we see it in all the murals that we see everywhere we go. we see harriet being depicted. in some places i am not pleased but depicted everywhere nonetheless. her getting to suffrage, she knew she was stepping into -- auburn. they don't teach geography in school anymore. seneca falls and auburn are in central new york. very different from new york city. it is like it is two states. central new york, upstate new
york, downstate. people are more familiar with downstate. auburn and seneca falls are maybe 20 miles from each other in the same locale. the abolitionist movement was very fervent in auburn. when she decided to settle in auburn she knew she needed to be at least in an environment politically where the question of free or slave was already asked and answered. but still segregation still existed in auburn. tubman on her property created nine cottages that were a series of homes. the home for the agent and indigent negroes so they could age with dignity and grace
because auburn still has a home for the aged. at the time it was segregated. blacks were not admitted into the home. she knew that was unjust but she knew she had an ability to do something about it. her emancipation -- i'm sorry. i know we will talk about suffrage but i have to share this. her emancipation was also economic freedom. she knew becoming a landowner was a part of that economic freedom. that is what allowed her to bring her family ultimately up from the eastern shore to auburn where they settled. that is where she had the nine cottages on the property where she housed seniors, african-american seniors. that is where she provided free universal health care to everybody at the john brown hall. this was a woman who just saw freedom through a lot of different lenses.
i feel like we are just now on the cusp of this country of a turning point. turning point. i got you in there. how do we go forward with that legacy? suffrage was really key because what was happening is that elizabeth cady stanton and susan b anthony and others ould get booed out of these halls when they would try to talk about suffrage. there would be black men in the audience because the fact that women for going to get the vote -- does everybody know what happened? women got the vote and then states determined to take the vote away from black men. -- from black men.
african-american men through the 15th amendment. states began to pull back. that was for tubman quite a dilemma. to advance women getting the vote, not including herself, and then black men very specifically, their right to vote was going to be abridged. it was not going to be there. that put her in a real difficult situation. susan b. anthony and the other women part of the leadership of the movement knew that they needed a speaker like harriet. they needed someone intestinal fortitude to advance the suffrage argument. tubman knew that if she advanced suffrage as a concept, one person, one vote, that was the bigger victory to have and then to still fight on for full
enfranchisement of all americans. it is amazing that someone born a slave could see beyond their own circumstance. that doesn't happen. they could see beyond their own circumstance and advocate fully for her to be -- for women to get the vote. it is still a real difficult story to tell because there were other women of color who were scholars, who wanted to really be a part of this, who were marginalized in the suffrage argument. but tubman stood her ground. as small in stature as she was, she was twice as large in a room like this.
in a room like this, you stayed until midnight to hear all she had to say. she had them opening their pocketbooks. i will not ask you for money. [laughter] she had this ability and her faith fueled all of her work. that was something that people were not comfortable with for a long time. it has only been more recently, but the suffragist, particularly amongst the leaders -- some quite frankly were very racist. it was with cady stanton and frederick douglass were great friends, but she called blacks sambo. he took her to task on that. she did not see anything wrong with it. she allowed him to stay at her house when he needed to. he eulogized her. not a lot of people also know that harriet tubman, sojourner
truth, and frederick douglass all come out of the liberation theology of the freedom church, which is the african methodist episcopal zion church. i have a zion minister here with me this evening. in auburn, there was a zion church there. that is where she felt like it had everything. it had a vibrant abolitionist movement. it had progressive women and men who believed in suffrage, women's suffrage. and it had most important leader the church. which is where she was fed and nurtured. i think the argument about
tubman and suffrage needs to be talked about a lot more because it really gets into what battle are we willing to take up that will advance society beyond our own personal situation? how many of us can ask, what are we doing to make a difference beyond our own personal situation? >> i think that is one of the lessons of harriet tubman's legacy. you talked about, you mentioned the choice that harriet tubman had to make as far as being a black woman in a movement that was quite frankly racist, and thought that many times, and those that know the history well, there was a split between the stanton wing that wanted to take the more conservative state-by-state approach that included not supporting african-american mens'right to vote, to the more radical wing that thought the constitutional amendment was not negotiable and should move forward and
were more welcoming to african-american women. i want to pick up on that point about that choice. if you could talk more about harriet tubman's role in the beginnings of the african american club movement and the national association of colored women. these women who history may not mark as separate just because they did not dedicate exclusively to suffrage, but because of the society, the idea that freedom goes beyond my situation. as a black woman i can't -- i should not be forced to choose between vote for myself or vote against my people. >> i want to say that the colored women's club, they actually -- if you ever come to auburn and you see her headstone, the empire state chapter actually paid for her headstone that is there today.
the original headstone broke many, many years ago. they dedicated the headstone because tubman was one of them. she was one of them. they were hers. there was no separation. i think that is the thing that tubman helped people to understand, that we can be together and then there are journeys i have to take that you may not be able to join. it does not separate us, but i am advancing something else. i do believe very strongly that god had predestined tubman to do amazing things. because time and again she went beyond, beyond the average person. she was scheduled to be with john brown at harpers ferry, but they kept changing the
date. that was only god that had it outlined that they changed the date and she did not feel well on the day it was scheduled. travel was going to be too much for her. that is the only reason she was not at harpers ferry, because god had more work for her to do. but she saw -- some people found john brown too zealous. in all earnest she understood that she understood the struggle and the pain and the angst that african-americans endured with slavery. she did not see it as because you are white you could not possibly understand what i'm going through. that takes a special individual to be able to see life through that lens. in auburn, she was a woman who
could neither read nor write. how amazing is that? she could not read nor write but she understood god. there is something that happens on the inside that came out in her walk, her every day walk. this is a woman who could not read or write, but if you came to my park now, you would see her bible. she could not read nor write, but her bible is there. could not read nor write, but her hymnal was a part -- she wanted to have those songs. she wanted the hymnal. it put her closer to that. could not read nor write. could not read nor write. if you hear some of the oral histories of longtime
auburnians, their grandparents told them how tubman gave them fruits and vegetables when they brought her a good report card. these were white auburnians. she valued education and excellence. could not read nor write, but she took care of, her protein, her carbs, the balance of everything. walking. on her farm she grew -- she had a vegetable garden. she had animal husbandry. she had trees propagating the last of the original apple trees. i will be able to offer you a tubman variety apple. and her favorite fruit was the strawberry. i have a hard time taking strawberry off a chocolate cake, but tubman knew was the wiser,
better choice for me. i think the health care industry is going to find a wayto say this is an example of how we age with dignity and grace and keep ourselves healthy. this is a woman well into her 80's it was still traveling independently back and forth. when colonel shaw passed away she made the trip from auburn to boston, and that is still not easy today to traverse. but tubman did it. it is because she understood that america was greater, that the promise of america was greater then what it had exhibited in her lifetime. her emancipation journey said i need to plug into those pieces where i can make a difference. getting back to suffrage, i believe tubman really supported women who believed in
temperance. this was consistent. she was not aligned with that community. tubman knew clearly that black women were being marginalized. she was determined that she was not going to allow them to marginalize the voice of this black woman, of herself. she knew she was speaking not only for herself but for her sisters who had been marginalized. coming out of the liberation theology, we know how later sojourner truth picked up that mantle. that is not an accident. that is not an accident. that is one woman empowering with her voice another woman. it is likely the drum. people understand the power of the drum.
the drum in african culture beats in a way that informs people of next steps and what they should be doing and invigorates and enlivens and tubman was all of that. people were spellbound. in the movie they show -- they make a reference to the seward house. they are trying to talk about the fugitive slave act. it is not enough to bring people to freedom. we have to get them to canada. that is another 400 miles. her longest journey has only been 100 miles to philadelphia and further north. she said, don't tell me what i can't do. that is a bold statement. frederick douglass is in the room. these are men.
seward is in the room. his wife francis is in,. don't tell me what i can't do. it is a type of liberation that says your freedom is more than your personal freedom. it is social freedom. it is economic freedom. it is political freedom. and that comes from the z and church, the freedom church. >> thinking about how sort of blind she was to division of freedom. it is an equal opportunity thing for her in the way we think about it in the 21st century. >> if you are not free at everything you do, you are not truly free. we all need to recognize that. if our votes don't count, we are not free. if our votes are suppressed, we are not free.
if we don't have equal opportunity to pursue our better selves, we are not free. it is just that plain. she was a moderating force for those who are very racist -- this is what makes things real for me. when things like this -- [laughter] >> it's ok. >> she was a moderating force. she was not someone who stepped into suffrage to make a complicated situation more complicated. she was a person able to step in and say, look, it is not perfect. here are the reasons why i should not even join this
movement, this suffrage movement. the women's rights movement. here is why i must join. when i look at the women's march for instance, and the divisions -- it was a great coming together in 2017. oh my god. everybody was so excited. my goodness. i have a pink hat. everybody is so excited, and that is when the image of tubman was still on the front of the treasury department. she was going to be on the $20 bill. [applause] >> people understand.
>> that is predestined. it will happen. she is out there. everybody has the hats. it is wonderful. and then the divisions begin to creep up into it. i thought we were going to be doing this. i am pro-life, i'm pro-choice. why is this -- we need a harriet for this moment to say hold up, wait. we are fighting for something larger than ourselves. we are fighting for what democracy and its truer reform ought to look like. we as women ought to be free to express ourselves in every political facet and full participation. we have not had the harriet moment yet. i am prayerful that it will happen.
we are all a part of something so much greater. she saw a mosaic of america. we have not gotten there yet, but she saw a mosaic of america that is far richer in its diversity, in its full embrace of people. i think that is the work going forward. so, these divisions that the women's movement is experiencing now is very much akin to what happened during the fight for the vote. believe me. it was not an easy time. native american women excluded.
latino women excluded. asian women excluded. we were not good people. i think we all have to share in the blame and we all have to share in the full embrace of the commemoration of 100 years. we actually call it a commemoration as opposed to a celebration because of the groups who were excluded from being able to participate. how unfortunate that no one stopped to think that if we had these groups included we maybe would have gotten there a lot sooner. we would have learned incredible examples from the west. as you go further west and new states were formed women had incredible rights and were included. some of the redder states had
the more progressive policies towards women. if we open ourselves to the possibility that we can really be greater than who we are, and that is what tubman saw. she died on march 10, 1913. exactly one week after, what? the infamous parade that took place in washington, d.c. the organizers for the parade, alice paul, they wanted a bit of diversity. not complete. just a bit, a sprinkling. ida b. wells. delta sigma theta. i am a proud delta. everyone should know that. to participate in the parade. then they were like, you will
be at the back. this is among progressives. you will be at the back. they did not see anything wrong with that. we are so good -- let me be honest. the most difficult times i've had in my life have been among progressive and liberal people. ok? because i was brought up prepared to deal with people who were not. but you will be at the back and the deltas and they said, certainly not. certainly not. not even thinking of the optics of that. if for no other reason, do you really want these newspapers who are chronicling this amazing event that your president -- just before his inauguration. that was alice paul. katie chapman was the diplomat
and alice paul was the activist. just at the back. when we hear this -- i read about that but i'm a little girl in my moms house and my grandmother's house hearing about the civil rights struggle in the back of the bus. i did not realize this is not the first time. you will be at the back. what makes people think that they even have the temerity to ask somebody to take a backseat? that is an important question. we need to ask ourselves as a country and answer it. because if you except sitting at the back, there is a lot of other things that follow under that that those same people are at the back.
so, in 2013, i came down here. it is funny because i had another injury. i work at the park. i'm just a clumsy person. i came down here to participate in that march. i said, harriet. how different is this now -- i thought, harriet, how different is this now? we don't call them parades anymore. it is a march. it is a protest. it is to say something. it was such a gathering of diversity and inclusion. it was intergenerational. men and women. it was a different, different experience in 2013. so, in 2020, commemoratively, i
think we have a great slogan. forward into the light. we all need to get to the light. a lot of iconic buildings across the country are going to be lit up in the colors of suffrage, which are the white, the gold and purple. you have. ok. you got your scarf. ok. it is not an accident those colors are white, purple and gold. brenda will tell you in the protestant denomination every woman's group, white, purple and gold. the bishops, white, purple and gold. there is something thematic that says we are trying to get to the light.
on august 26, everything will be all lit up. before that i'm really glad the commission will be coming to central new york. we need to experience what women experience at that first convention. it was raucous. it was not organized. what do we want to have come out of it? god knows i'm sure these women did not think he was going to take them from 1849 to 1920. that is a lifetime. that is truly a lifetime. we will be in seneca falls. we will tour the tubman park. they need to see how this woman came from a semi rural
situation about 20 miles away but she was an incredible influencer. when the movement started she was still enslaved. harriet's campaigns went from 1849 to 1859. she joined up when she finally settled in auburn. she was like -- she was a spark of energy that they needed. just the right dose of activism and diplomacy. very, very supportive of -- women do not let men marginalize you. do not let them tell you what you cannot do. she knew that owning the land was really important. that gave her rights. every time i read about more young women are buying their own homes, not waiting. nothing wrong with marriage but not waiting for marriage per se.
i am like, great. the lending community understands they have to treat single women and married women equally to men. this is the struggle we have to take on and what we do locally. just to advocate for women all the time until we get to the point where we don't really have to do that anymore. i don't see that happening. >> it seems like a lifelong -- >> exactly. for humanity and for our partners. our men and women partners. it is important that people understand human dignity and how we get there. how do we get there? we don't think about that very much. we teach children don't do this, don't do that, but we don't
teach enough about how everybody is important. everybody is important. harriet tubman created the space for us to begin to start the conversation. >> yes. in preparing for this conversation and thinking more deeply about harriet tubman in a way i hadn't before, i thought perhaps the suffragettes of wilson's presidency were much more radical than harriet tubman's generation, but were it not for harriet's own revolutionary work and ideas, perhaps the country may not have been -- >> we would still be trying to get the vote. i feel she did the ground work for helping to fortify the next generation of leadership to come.
that is really important. it's amazing. she could not read nor write but people would read her speeches as recorded by other people. that is amazing. the press followed her. when she died, the new york times covered it as a major story. she left women of the zion church of her home for the aged. she understood she had to provide agency for women and not enough of us do that. not enough of us do that. i just can't -- she took care of her parents. i don't understand by the eldercare community has not lifted her up. a lot of the struggle with how we care for ourselves and our parents. she understood that. harriet's mom pretty much was
despondant when she came from she came from the eastern shore to auburn. she had lost another daughter. she had three daughters taken away. rachel died and, you know, she was really very despondent. harriet just knew, i have to take the lead, bring my parents up and we will work out the situation together. a lot of us are struggling with that today. i recommend everybody read "bound for the promised land, " by clifford larson, a great personal friend of mine and written literally the seminal work on tubman up until about 15 years ago. there are over 250 books written about tubman, but they were all children's books.
filled with great myths. one myth after another. kate was among the first to write an incredible, well-documented biography of tubman. this scholarly work is something i recommend. there is always something going on in your life. you can find it in the back. read the passage. you feel better. it is kind of a bible of sorts for me. you feel better. let me tell you how god works. kate larson is a white woman, historian, who has done incredible work on tubman. still doing incredible work on tubman. me, i am a member of the african methodist zion church. this is how god works. i came to that position looking for how i could volunteer at my local church. they said boy, do we have
something for you to do. [applause] -- [laughter] and things happen from there. kate and i went to the same women's college in boston. our years overlapped but we were never friends. see how tubman works. we are such kindred spirits. she has brought us together. we talk almost on a daily basis. >> wow. speaking of that, that leads me to the final question before we open it up to the audience. you touched on it a bit. i am curious to know as a leader of a historic site what do you think sites like the tubman home and the wilson house, these iconic last homes of important americans, what role do we have to advance the history forward beyond opening our doors to the public in a
general way for tours, but how do you see historic sites being a part of all this vision for equality and freedom you talk about? >> i think if you operate and manage a historic site as we both do, the site has to always be alive. it has to breathe. history for history's sake, but i think if the site is alive, if it is looking at part of wilson's work, and he called suffrage one of his greatest compliments. ok. [laughter] >> i think that would be an interesting -- ok.
when you are willing to open yourself for examination and when you collaborate with other parks -- we should be talking about an event in 2021 or 2022, what have you, that we can do together. one of my aspirational themes is i've had one very preliminary talk but i want to have a national day that would honor harriet tubman and her servant leadership. i am here quite a bit. every time i am here in d.c., which i love and have worked here so many times, there are a lot of leaders and not enough servants. ok.
i am hoping that one of our renowned houses of worship here we have a worship experience that talks about being dedicated to servant leadership. i will be calling on you to join us in partnership around that. having the gravitas of a former president historic landmark be part of this occasion makes others--harriet is still harriet to some people. i understand that. we have got to get servant leadership back on the board for the way in which we walk. it has got to happen. >> thank you. you have talked beautifully about harriet tubman's dynamism. i think she is one of the most well-known but also perhaps the most misunderstood or
little-known about her dynamism. we will open up to the audience now to ask questions that you have for karen hill. feel free to stand without a mic. we are in intimate crowd. raise your hand and we will point you out. yes ma'am? >> how can we help take what you shared tonight on this collaboration and uplift and get the day for harriet tubman? you got the $20, the stamp, but we are not getting it done. >> interestingly enough, senator schumer settlements ago asked for an investigation regarding the $20 bill. i will share publicly that the bureau of engraving and printing came to auburn. we had an amazing visit. they took it all in.
we went through this journey with them. the bill was well on its way. that is all i will say. i just said they came to auburn and there were a lot of things that happened. it is kind of abrupt. i juxtaposed that and i hear my mom talking to me now about making myself a target but i can't help it. [laughter] >> i remember when our leader went to the smithsonian and national museum for african american history and culture. saw the exhibits and they said, what did you think of the museum? great, great, great. was anything that stood out to you? the exhibition on tubman.
tubman's in two places in the museum. harriet tubman, harriet tubman. dr. carson and his wife are standing behind. ok, ok. i remembered it was a woman's conference at our wonderful white house. before the women lead our wonderful leader said, i bet you don't know -- i bet you don't know who led the first armed raid into enemy territory. one of our very own, harriet tubman. i was like, all right. then we had the signing of the suffrage coin happen. i was not able to make that. but tubman was referenced again. there is incongruous -- these platitudes about tubman. and then she should not be on paper money. i believe in prayer.
i also believe in action. and, the first week of the impeachment inquiry in the house, the hearings were scheduled on wednesday and on friday. on that thursday, you were there with me, the house decided to have a screening of the film " harriet" at the capital in the evening. which was wonderful. steny hoyer got up and spoke. then kevin mccarthy got up and spoke. he said, i want everyone to know there is bipartisan support for harriet tubman to be on the currency. part of our job collectively is to remind our leaders. i did over 500 hill visits,
meetings, before it became a park. we have to have a similar movement like that. that goodwill ought to translate into good actions. that is where we are. i feel very encouraged. i am thrilled that the president had those wonderful words to say about tubman. i will remind him. here it is. here it is. i am grateful senator schumer asked for an i.g. investigation as to what happened. i am thrilled that minority leader mccarthy said we support tubman being on currency. these are documented
circumstances. god is on the throne. harriet's god is on the throne. i know it is going to happen. i can't say exactly when but it is moving in our direction. everyone here, when you hear about an opportunity to gather, because we had harriet on the hill day before we got the legislation taken care of for us to become a national park. there will be a similar kind of action where people will be asked to speak up. call your congressperson, call your legislator, call the people in the women's caucus, because that is a bipartisan caucus. let people know it is important. it is so important. she was selected twice by the people of this country to be on
the $20 banknote. i will be honest. when she was first selected that was great. when the president decided to do a redo of all of that, and i said ok, i wasn't happy but ok. we had the then treasurer of the united states, rosie rios, came to auburn. we went through all the paces. she was shocked when we were in the wesleyan chapel to hear from people. they were maybe three black people in the room. in that hot, crowded, steamy hot crowded day in the summer to hear people say, harriet needs to be on the $20 bill. then they had historians
convene at treasury two or three times. everyone ultimately decided she needs to be on the currency. she needs to be on the $20 bill specifically, the most ubiquitous form of currency. that will be the greater education for how far america has come. that will probably be one of the best economic empowerment tools for everyone. i believe we will make good choices about everything that we do with those tubman 20's. [applause] >> any more questions? yes. >> i'm just about the finish the first book of fiction. i wonder if you have a comment about the role of the magical realism of harriet tubman in the book. >> no. >> no.
but he is someone i much admire. he is a voice that needs to be listened to. >> there is magical realism at a novel. she plays a part of it. it is interesting. >> what i have been much more focused on quite frankly is i spend -- the movie did a wonderful thing for me because it took the issue of her faith and made it clear to people. where faith stood. it made it more clear for me personally how faith has to really be in abundance in your life in terms of geithner -- guiding, as a guidepost. i spend a lot of time -- like i said, the 250 books written for children. the myths about tubman are just
tremendous. they have been written over and over and over again. a lot of what i do is dispelling the myths so we can look at who she was and what she did. another thing i do is -- i am a huge admirer. everyone in this room is of dr. king, of rosa parks. i really try to make sure all of those admirers understand that the groundwork was laid by harriet. even frederick douglass, he says his work was fueled by the work of harriet. sometimes it is really hard in the work that we do when you are lifting up someone who was a historical figure. a little easier for you guys
because you have a president. >> not right now. [laughter] >> it is really hard when they only go as far back as dr. king. that is sort of where we are as a culture. there is this whole lot of stuff that happened prior to that. that we forget about completely. so, that is where i spend my time. >> you mentioned liberation theology. i am from central america. liberation theology in the 60's, 70's, 80's played an extra ordinary role in the struggle for liberation.
would you articulate how do you as an african american role in the struggle for an african-american context see liberation theology? to integrate and unite? >> so, latin america is so well-known for its liberation theology, particularly through the catholic church. in the african methodist episcopal zion church, liberation theology really took its basis from -- we were founded in lower manhattann on john street. an arrival for slaves, for people of color to come to this country. our theology -- we are methodist. we believe in order, order, order. [laughter] >> order.
the liberation theology says it is more than just sitting in the pew. we are known as the freedom church. i think that is one of the reasons the church has been able to sustain itself and to remain relevant. it understands it is not just what we do, what we practice. inside the walls of the church it is what we practice outside the walls of the church. brenda belonged to over 80 ministries. it does dynamic work in other realms. built housing, helps with employment, provides childcare. helps with the elderly. liberation theology is doing all we can for all of us collectively. participating. monday is our day with the soup kitchen. in the community.
it goes around. being a part of something greater is what we do. we don't practice politics in the church. we inform people of their rights. their right to vote. not just in november but school elections, down ballot, all of that. encouraging that and bringing up children so they know they are citizens of this country. that. i think that black and brown people particularly are going to have to learn how to work together with all of -- with each other and all of america. i don't think that it does anyone any good to say this group is a minority now and in 20 years it is going to be this group. we are all in the same situation.
how do we -- how do we see further than ourselves? that is really what i started with. tubman saw beyond herself, saw others. that is part of the liberation theology. knowing that freedom is a continuing, evolving struggle. because our constitution, as wonderful as it is, is not a perfect instrument. >> we have been seeing that lately. [laughter] >> it is only the people themselves they can make it more perfect. i don't know if i answered that. >> it is very moving. we see the theology is in the other. the poor, the other person. that is how we realize ourselves.
in latin america we have not heard or seen the last of it yet. there will be a resurgence. that integration with the struggle -- >> it has to happen. >> this is not a country. it is the center of an empire. we have to unite the here and the there. so there is not alabama only. it is farther south. >> absolutely. >> i had a question about something that did not understand that you said about the service. what is it? the servant leadership. if you could explain with that is. >> harriet tubman was catapulted as a leader for her iconic work. but she never stopped being a servant. shes never stopped using her
hands and her mind and her being to serve others. you have to be willing to serve. you have to be willing to serve without acknowledgment. doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do. a lot of leaders here -- not enough servants. if they served, they wanted on tv at 6:00. you have to be willing to serve because then you are truly doing good. you are helping someone else. that is why i think it is important that we have an exposition of servant leadership. >> you need a staff observant leaders to get the $20 bill done.
>> absolutely. >> they have to be leaders to do that. >> but they have to be willing to serve. an effective leader is a leader who is able to show people are following him or her or that he or she is a servant. you have to be willing to wash the feet, ok? if you are not, you are not there yet. i'm sorry. [laughter] >> any other questions? we have time for just one more. >> i am a midwife. i know one of harriet tubman's roles was she served as a midwife. at our church, our unitarian church we had a whole service dedicated to her as a midwife of consciousness. that she midwife to the consciousness of the nation and we as midwives now, that is a part of our ongoing work. do you have a comment about that? >> no, but i will say her
midwifery is amazing. this is a woman who, as i said, she could neither read nor write and she never had children herself. but in every way she made herself available to serve. to bring children into the world and nurture children herself having adopted. we know at least one, perhaps two children. she took in children. there were children who were legally adopted whose parents -- adopted parents returned them back to the home. i don't even want to get into all of that.
it is almost as if people were also adopting children not for giving them a loving environment but it was doing something else. hard to place children can count on tubman to give them a wonderful home, a wonderful home environment. from the local adoption agencies, they have closed and moved on. some have given us their records. we think this is harriet tubman and her husband who adopted this child, who had been returned six prior times. her service is astonishing. she took care of her nieces and her nephews as if they were her own. she is very, very fond of the sewards. william and francis seward. she was going to be buried closer to them, but she had a
nephew who died indigent. she gave up her burial plot. that is where her nephew is buried. he is buried closer to her second husband, nelson davis. she is buried another 100 feet away. >> we have come to the end of our program. thank you. [applause] >> and thank you to the audience for spending your evening with us. thank you, c-span. we encourage you to visit us again for tours and for the remainder of this series. you have flyers in your chair. if you're interested in harriet tubman books, we have a few left in the bookshop. one copy left of the larson book that karen mentioned. on your way out feel free to stop in and we hope to see you again. thank you.