Harriet Tubman's Legacy and the 2010 Census

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Actor Gloria Lowery Tyrell playing Harriet Tubman

Actor Gloria Lowery Tyrell playing Harriet Tubman

There are many facets to the legacy of Harriet Tubman, the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad, known to have helped free more than 300 slaves. Gov. George Pataki in 2003 established March 10 as Harriet Tubman Day in New York State. This year, the abolitionist and women’s rights activist is being celebrated--and being used to remind New Yorkers to fill out their census forms.

Brooklyn Councilman Albert Vann hosted a commemoration at Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Boys and Girls High school. “It’s important every year to celebrate her sacrifices, her courage,” Vann says. “[But] this year, it has an additional meaning for us.”

As the U.S Census forms arrive at American households, officials in neighborhoods across the city, including Central Brooklyn, fear low response rates. According to maps developed by the New York State Senate and based on U.S. Census Bureau data, only about 33 percent of residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant sent the census questionnaire back in 2000, compared to 66 percent at the state level and 72 percent at the national level.

Check out a map of the 2000 census response rates..

“We were embarrassed when ten years ago our community did not respond,” Vann says. “This year, we intend to go from bottom to top.”

Pauline Copes Johnson, Harriet Tubman

Pauline Copes Johnson, Harriet Tubman's descendent

Pauline Copes Johnson, 82, Tubman’s great grand-niece was on hand this morning. She says she supports the invocation of her ancestor as a way to encourage people to participate in the census. “She was not counted,” Johnson says of Tubman. “You need to be counted because you exist.”

At the state level, census information helps determine how many seats a state has in the U.S House of Representatives, and at the community level, census information affects how federal funding is split. “Harriet Tubman was about empowering her people,” Vann says. “That’s one aspect of empowerment.”

Standing on stage, Vann shouted at the room full of students: “You’re going to help me. You’re going to make sure that your families fill in that form. Can I count on you to do that?”

“Yes!” the students shouted back.

“From the bottom to the top?” Vann says.

“Harriet Tubman!” the students replied in unison.


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Comments [3]

December Kwame Lowery Tyrrell from Roosevelt, N.Y.

I just want to say that after 36 year of having my dear mother Ms. Gloria Diane Lowery Tyrrell in my life, I will TRULY, MADLY & DEEPLY miss her. She was more than a mother to me she is/was the BEST homie lover friend a son could have. Mom, I will always keep you very close to my heart, and may you R.I.P. (Rest In Peace). your one and only son December Kwame Lowery Tyrrell. SAFE- One Love.

Mar. 31 2012 05:55 AM
Shirley E. Johnson from Kansas City Missouri

My group and I present A Harriet Tubman Day here in Kansas City, Missouri, each year at the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center. Our community turns out to present their talents and we culminate with the story about Harriet Tubman which was written in 2003. Our 5th Annual Harriet Tubman Days was March 11th and 12th, 2011.

Since I wrote this story about Harriet Tubman we have turned the Stage Play into a musical with about 15 participants. If you wish to see it please go to the website to see how to get in touch. We are inspiring students everywhere as well. We just, two weeks ago, performed our Harriet Tubman musical at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi. We perform wherever we are invited. We would like to send a DVD to Harriet Tubman's Nieces. We need their information.

Shirley E. Oglesby Smith Johnson
(816) 353-0707 Direct
885-6840 Cell

Apr. 12 2011 06:55 PM
Dn. Richard Jones Jr.

My compliments to Councilman Albert Vann for wonderful Annual Celebration in honor of Harriet Ross Tubman at Boys and Girls H.S. and for his legislation to co-name Fulton Street to reflect Harriet Tubman Way. The celebration and proved to be memorable for our children and their families. This year, was extremely important, as it emphasized the pivotal nature of the 2010 Census and Councilman Vann called on the young attendees to bring the message home.

Mar. 11 2010 07:06 PM

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