And it has to do with a discovery announced in this month of February.
It's also a conversation I am going to have with my alter-ego or MAE.
February commemorates Black history month in Canada and the United States. (In Britain, Black history month is in October. Also, the month is celebrated throughout the African diaspora.) Since 1926, 91 years ago, American Carter G. Woodson began "Negro History Week" to commemorate the histories and contributions of Black people to the United States. In 1970, the celebration was turned into Black History Month at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. In 1978, the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) first petitioned the City of Toronto recognize Black History Month in Canada. In 1995, the House of Commons in Canada officially recognized Black history month after a motion was proposed by politician Jean Augustine.
MAE: Okay, we get it. February is Black History Month... what is the big announcement?
Have you heard of Harriet Tubman? She was a slave, "Black Moses", an abolitionist, and many, many other things. I first learned about her when I was a student in fifth grade from one of the many public library books on Black (mostly African-American) history I had read. I was fascinated with her story and the Underground Railroad. I also think this was around the time I read or attempted to read two novels by Canadian authors about this topic-- Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker and Harriet's Daughter by Marlene Nourbese Phillip. (Most recently, I read The Gospel Truth by Caroline Pignat which was my first book review in a magazine, Canadian Children's Book News, as well as a winner of Canada's Governor General's Award for young adult literature in 2015.)
Anyway, back to the announcement.
MAE: Yes. The announcement.
We know that Harriet Tubman was a real person because of the many writings and accounts that describe her, her own biography, and the few photographs that exist thanks to the technology which developed in the 1800s. She was born into slavery around 1822 and died in 1913, a free woman. Imagine, a woman who could not read not only escaped from slavery in the southern United States to her own freedom. Harriet Tubman led 300 enslaved people to do the same including some of her family members to the northern United States as well as Canada. She is a woman who has been celebrated and commemorated in many different ways. Most recently, Tubman will appear on the American twenty dollar bill.
No. But that was pretty cool information to know right?
MAE: Yeah. I guess you're right. On with the announcement, etcetera...
The big announcement this past week that has got me excited was the new discovery-- a photograph of Harriet Tubman. Only a few photographs of Tubman exist and most of them show her as an older woman. However the newly discovered photo is unique because it is the one to show Tubman at her youngest (believed to be in her forties). This photo is also believed to be taken after the Civil War in which Harriet Tubman served as a cook, a nurse, an armed scout, and a spy.
MAE: Now I wonder what that could be?
I've been sitting on this news for a while. Drum roll, please!
MAE: Very good news indeed! Go on with your bad self!
Thank you. It's come full circle because in 2009 I taught Grade 1 at the Africentric Alternative School, I wrote and bound readers for my own students about figures in Black history because I could not find the books that were age-appropriate and reading levels of my students.
MAE: So I guess you got a lot of work to do now, huh.
Indeed. Writing and research to do.
Now it's grind time!