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Thursday, April 8, 2021

NJ Race Discrimination Lawyer, African American Woman, Unequaled Leader

Apartheid is a government law, policy, or legal system of segregation and discrimination on grounds of race. Apartheid is much more than segregation by race.  It is shocking to me to learn how many people made it through 16+ years of schooling yet have no knowledge that Apartheid in the United States, Apartheid that was equal in its severity to that of South Africa at its worst, existed in the US from the 1870's until the mid-1960's. How can this not be truthfully taught in the schools?

There is often a gratuitous mention of Black female historical leaders during Black History Month or Women’s History month, but it is overlooked that brave and hard-working Black women are the backbone of America on many fronts.  Most people have heard of renowned abolitionist Harriet Tubman but do not know the extent of her bravery, selflessness and acts of heroism, or that she resided in NJ in the early 1850's, or that she worked as a covert operative for the Union army, organized massive espionage networks, successfully led 150 Union soldiers in a Union military operation, and did extensive work after the Civil War to help Blacks.

Born in in Maryland around 1822, Tubman suffered extreme brutal violence as an child from her enslavers, which violence caused her permanent injuries. She married in 1844 but her marriage was not legally recognized as she was a slave. When her owner died in in 1849, she feared she would be sold. She wanted to escape to the north but her husband was not willing to travel with her. She left the Maryland plantation to escape slavery and by following the North Star, she  made it to Pennsylvania which was a free state and escaped enslavement.

Recalling how she felt when she finally entered land in the free state of Pennsylvania, Tubman said, “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything. The sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”

The Underground Railroad

In the early 1800s, Quaker abolitionist Isaac T. Hopper had set up a network in Philadelphia, to help slaves escape.  Quakers in North Carolina simultaneously organized abolitionist groups which began the planning for routes and shelters for slaves fleeing to the North. This became known as the Underground Railroad.

The Underground Railroad was a geographically broad network of people, Black as well as white, offering assistance, food, shelter and sanctuary to escaping slaves from the South. It evolved out of a merging of several different covert operations. The exact dates of the Underground Railroad are not known, but it operated from the late 1700's to the Civil War.

After Harriet Tubman arrived safely in Pennsylvania, she found work in Philadelphia and saved her money, money she planned to use to help other enslaved persons escape. Although she herself was now free, she was willing to risk everything to help other enslaved persons make their way to freedom. In 1850, Tubman learned that her niece, a slave in Maryland, was going to be sold, along with her two young children. Tubman returned to Maryland and helped the entire family make the journey to Philadelphia.

She couldn’t bear the thought of her other family members and others being enslaved if she could help them escape. She subsequently made a second trip returning back to Maryland, risking her life, and rescued her brother and two other men, taking them to the North. In 1850, Harriet Tubman told others of a vision she had received from God, after which she joined the Underground Railroad and began guiding other escaped slaves by being part of and contributing to this covert network.

The Fugitive Slave Act Made it More Dangerous for Tubman

After 1850, it became more dangerous for Tubman to assist those attempting to escape enslavement. The  Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 passed which required all states, even those such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania which had outlawed slavery, to return runaway slaves to their enslavers, with harsh penalties for violators. Those assisting Tubman or others in the Underground Railroad could be killed. But Tubman simply worked around that and steered her Underground Railroad to Canada, where slavery was prohibited.

At the end of the second year of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The Proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free.” But the Proclamation was severely limited- it only applied only to states that had seceded from the United States, leaving slavery in place in the loyal border states. It also exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. The freedom it promised slaves depended upon the Union’s (US) military victory.

US congressmen were unsuccessful when they introduced bills and resolutions attempting to repeal the Fugitive Slave Act. The Act remained until after the beginning of the Civil War. It  was not until June 28, 1864, that both Fugitive Slave Acts were repealed.

After Tubman had returned to Maryland in 1850, Tubman then led another group of slaves to Canada, where they would be out of the reach of the Fugitive Slave Act. Harriet Tubman's next trip returning to Maryland to help slaves escape was in September 1851 where she guided  another group to Canada because they would be outside the reach of the Fugitive Slave Act.

She led others wanting to escape, traveling with them until they were safe.

Harriet Tubman’s Work in New Jersey, Working to Save Money to Help the Underground Railroad

After her initial trips back to Maryland to rescue slaves and bring them to Canada, Tubman returned to the US. Harriet Tubman lived in Cape May, New Jersey in the early 1850s, where she worked and made money to help fund her mission to lead slaves to freedom. She earned money by working in hotels and families as a cook. From Cape May, she went back again to Maryland in the fall of 1852, and brought nine more fugitives to freedom. She spent two other summers in Cape May working and saving money to fund her mission.

Thereafter Tubman again returned to Maryland and risked her life to lead other slaves to freedom. In 1854 she helped three of her brothers and other slaves escape by bringing them to Canada. Risking her own life, Tubman took groups of escapees to Canada numerous times, distrusting the United States to keep them safe and treat them well.

Between 1850 and 1860, Tubman made numerous trips back to Maryland, estimates from records indicate approximately 16 total trips, where she rescued more than 300 enslaved people, by leading and traveling with them to freedom. Her work as a “conductor”,  a name for persons who guided slaves along the Underground Railroad to a place where they would be free,  earned her the nickname “Moses.” Her later work as a covert agent and military leader for the Union Army caused over 700 formerly enslaved persons, invisible and  trapped in the South, to be able to flee to the North.

In  1857, Tubman received news that her father was in danger of being beaten and murdered because he has been helping the Underground Railroad, so she traveled back to Maryland and brought her parents from Maryland to Canada. While she was in Canada,  Tubman met abolitionist John Brown. She learned of John Brown’s plans to organize a slave rebellion in the United States, and Tubman agreed to gather recruits for the cause.

Tubman purchased a house in Auburn, New York, from antislavery politician William H. Seward in 1859.  Her parents were unhappy living in Canada, and they joined Tubman in Auburn, NY.

While in Troy, New York in 1860, Tubman helped a former slave, Charles Nalle, elude the U.S. marshals who were planning to return Nalle to his enslaver.

In December 1860,  Tubman made her last trip as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. But is was not the end of her helping enslaved persons and Blacks. Following the start of the Civil War, Tubman joined Union troops in South Carolina, working as a nurse, while also working as a cook and a laundress to earn money. The  Union asked Harriet Tubman to become a covert operative for them, which assignment she accepted, and which will be discussed in the next article.

What You Can Do

I am an aggressive and compassionate employment law attorney who is experienced in successfully representing persons who were subjected to racial harassment and retaliation in the workplace and/or were fired. If you have experienced racism at work, or if you reported it and no action was taken, if you are thinking of resigning, or think you will be fired, or have been fired, it is important that you consult with an attorney who is experienced in discrimination.

If you are being subjected to workplace discrimination, contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law today for a free consultation.

Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law serves clients throughout New Jersey, including Bergen, Middlesex, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean, Union, Camden, Passaic, and Morris Counties with locations in southern, central, western and northern NJ to meet with clients.

 



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