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A Harriet Tubman Slight is Finally Corrected

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By J. Zamgba Browne
Special to the NNPA from the Amsterdam News

An $11,750 pension that Harriet Tubman, a courageous freedom fighter, should have received from Jan. 1899 to March 1913 for the death of her husband, Nelson Davis, a veteran of the Civil War, has been secured.

The funds, secured last week by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), will be made available under an interior appropriations bill. But the full House and Senate must first approve it.

Julian M. Hill, executive director of the Harriet Tubman Awards Jubilee Inc., said that he and the organization are pleased with the senator’s interest in the matter.

“We would also appreciate, however, if she and other elected officials would help us fulfill the dream of designating March 10 each year a legal holiday in the Empire State to honor Tubman, said Hill.

“We want to continue the campaign so that all New York residents can develop an appreciation for Tubman, an incredible and relentless freedom fighter,” he added.

Councilman Bill Perkins, who was instrumental in renaming St. Nicholas Avenue in Harlem for Tubman, praised Sen. Clinton’s initiative to secure the funds that were denied for so long.

“It is shameful that a heroine such as Harriet Tubman did not receive her justice while she was alive, not to mention the fact that she herself deserved a pension for her service to the nation as a spy in the Civil War,” he said.

Perkins said the new designation given to St. Nicholas Avenue creates the first and only major street in the entire State of New York that is named after a woman of African ancestry.

Sen. Clinton said that the funds would be used to preserve and maintain Tubman’s home in Auburn, N.Y., and to honor her memory. Clinton requested the funds after students in Albany brought the matter to her attention.

She also said that she was grateful to the students and that she is proud something can be done now to honor Tubman’s memory and make sure this injustice is remedied.

“Harriet Tubman was one of our nation’s most courageous freedom fighters, and it is important that we officially recognize her extraordinary services,” Clinton declared.

Tubman reportedly requested a pension for her service in the Union Army during the Civil War, but never received it. However, her husband, Davis, served in the U.S. Colored Infantry, making her eligible for pension upon his death.

Under the Dependent Pension Act of 1890, Tubman received an $8 per month widow’s pension as the spouse of a deceased veteran from June 1890 until January 1899.

On Jan. 19, 1899, Congress authorized the Secretary of Interior to pay Tubman a widow’s pension of $25 per month for the duration of her life; however, she received only $20 per month until her death on March 10, 1913.

Sen. Clinton said that the adjusted funding totals $11,750.

The issue was brought to the senator’s attention a year ago during a visit with students from the Albany Free School who studied the life of Tubman in class and spent nearly two weeks tracing the path to freedom that she is credited with paving as a “conductor” along the Underground Railroad.

Following their visit, Clinton introduced a resolution requesting that the federal government provide the long overdue remaining pension to the descendants of Tubman. Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-Brooklyn) introduced a similar resolution in the House.

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