Harriet Tubman reunited with Union College graduate William H. Seward

Harriet Tubman      William H. Seward

I don’t know when Harriet Tubman first met William Henry Seward, but it is not surprising that the two ardent abolitionists got to know one another. Harriet Tubman, nee Araminta Ross, was born in 1822 and died in 1913. Seward, 21 years older, died in Auburn, NY in 1872 but came close to dying when attacked during the plot to kill Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

Tubman is best remembered for her work on the so called “Underground Railroad,” though both words are symbolic, movement to liberate slaves was not literally underground, nor did abolitionists ride the rails. But the symbolism continued throughout the mission in that Harriet was called the “Conductor” of the Underground Railroad. She volunteered as a nurse and scout during the Civil War. After issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation and passage of the 13th Amendment, both of which were strongly supported by Seward, she led a mission to South Carolina that freed 600 slaves, and a bridge there was named in her honor. Although she won’t know of it, she will receive another honor in 2010 when her image, the first of a woman ever depicted on U.S. currency, will replace that of a slave-holding President.

For parts of their lives, Tubman and Seward were neighbors. At a time when Seward was a U.S. Senator from New York, he and his wife arranged for issuance of an affordable deed to Tubman for the house next door. Upon her death, she was buried at the same cemetery as Seward, Fort Hill in Auburn.

Seward’s fame and accomplishments were well described in Doris Kearns Goodman’s 2006 book Team of Rivals, and in Steven Spielberg’s 2006 hit movie Lincoln, and in many articles much longer than this, one of which is at www.EdReilly.info. The main object of this much shorter article is to spread the joyous news that a Team of Schenectadians is quite far along in uniting Tubman and Seward in bronze, as was done for Edison and Steinmetz and placed on Erie Boulevard. The same sculptor who made Edison-Steinmetz, Dexter Benedict, is well along on Tubman-Seward. The project-team members—Carl George, Brian Merriman, Marsha Mortimer, Anita Paul, Twitty Styles, and Frank Wicks—would like to see the completed statuary placed on the grounds of the main branch of the Schenectady County Public Library. The Board of Directors of the Library has unanimously accepted the proposal, but, in accord with law, it will now need a resolution of approval from the County Legislature.

 


 

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