Valerie Manokey still had tears in her eyes hours after hearing that her great-great aunt, Harriet Tubman, will be the new face of the $20 bill.
“I say what God intends to be, will be,” said the 80-year-old retired social worker from Cambridge, Md. Manokey was at the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center in Cambridge to celebrate and for media interviews.
“Our parents started teaching us about her when I was 5 years old,” said Manokey, perhaps one of the oldest living descendants. “As we grew older, we learned more and more. We read about the ups and downs. The suffering and the good things that have come from Aunt Harriet.”
She can’t wait to put one of those new bills in her purse. “I’m just going to look up and say, ‘Thank you, Jesus,’” she said.
The phone started ringing off the hook Wednesday at museums and institutions that bear the name of the former slave who led hundreds to freedom on the Underground Railroad.
“Without question, it makes all of us feel wonderful,” said William Jarmon, a member of the board of the Harriet Tubman Museum in Cambridge. “Her story is universal. Everyone wants freedom. She fought for her freedom and fought for others to be free.”
Here are some things you probably didn’t know about Tubman:
- She was born not in the deep South, but in Dorchester County, Md.
- Her birth name was Araminta Harriet Ross.
- Her nicknames were Minty, Moses and General Tubman.
- She was one of nine children born to Harriet “Rit” Green and Ben Ross.
- In her youth, Tubman was injured when an overseer threw a 2-pound weight that hit her in the head. For the rest of her life, Tubman experienced seizures, severe headaches and narcoleptic episodes.
- She often told the story of being caught trying to taste some sugar. She hid with a piglet to avoid getting a beating.
- As a little girl, her chores included watching muskrat traps.
- She was proud of her hair. She always fussed about her hair.
- As a pre-teen, she left work on a nearby farm at night to see her mother. Her mother took her back and told her never to leave without permission again.
- She returned to the South at least 19 times to bring relatives and hundreds of other slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad.
- Her first husband, John, was a free black man.
- She convinced two of her brothers to run away with her, but they had second thoughts and returned.
- The second time she escaped, she went on her own in 1849, using the Underground Railroad to make her way to Philadelphia.
- The reward for her capture eventually reached $40,000, a massive sum at that time.
- In addition to leading slaves to freedom, Tubman was also a spy, scout, cook and nurse.
- She actually planned to be present at John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, but fell ill and could not be there.
- For all her work as a spy and scout, Tubman was paid $200 over a three-year period and earned extra money selling gingerbread, pies and root beer.
- She and her second husband, Nelson Davis, adopted a baby girl, Gertie Davis.
- When Tubman died in 1913, she was was buried with military honors at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, N.Y.
Sources: William Jarmon, member of the board of the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center in Cambridge, Md., History Channel, Biography.com
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.