The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #81179   Message #1487109
Posted By: GUEST,Azizi
18-May-05 - 06:01 AM
Thread Name: African American Secular Folk Songs
Subject: RE: African American Secular Folk Songs

For what its worth, I agree with your statements about the Underground Railroad and the 'Follow the Drinking Gourd' song.

I respectfully provide excerpt from one of your posts in that 'Follow the Drinking Gourd' thread for which you provided a link:

"Much is written about one or two of these [Underground Railroad]conductors, but there were others that were more important.
John Parker helped slaves to cross the Ohio River and passed them on to other helpers.
William Cretty of New York helped 3000.
Robert Purvis of Philadelphia is credited with transporting 9000.
William Still, also of Philadelphia, conducted many.
Others included David Ruggles, Josiah Henson, Harriet Tubman and many others whose names are buried in records or unknown.
Purvis, Still and Ruggles were African-American free men."


Probably because they are relatively well known, you did not mention that Josiah Henson and Harriet Tubman were African American slaves who escaped to freedom. However, for those who may not know these names, let me take this opportunity to provide the following information:

"Josiah Henson was born a slave on 15th June, 1789 in Charles County, Maryland. He was sold three times before he reached the age of eighteen. By 1830, Henson had saved up $350 to purchase his freedom. After giving his master the money he was told that the price had increased to $1,000.

Cheated of his money, Henson decided to escape with his wife and four children. After reaching Canada, Henson formed a community where he taught other ex-slaves how to be successful farmers. His autobiography, The Life of Josiah Henson (1849) was read by Harriet Beecher Stowe and inspired her best-selling novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin. "

Source fully quoted:


"Harriet Ross was born into slavery in 1819 or 1820, in Dorchester County, Maryland. Given the names of her two parents, both held in slavery, she was of purely African ancestry. She was raised under harsh conditions, and subjected to whippings even as a small child. At the age of 12 she was seriously injured by a blow to the head, inflicted by a white overseer for refusing to assist in tying up a man who had attempted escape.

At the age of 25, she married John Tubman, a free African American. Five years later, fearing she would be sold South, she made her escape.

Her Escape to Freedom in Canada
Tubman was given a piece of paper by a white neighbor with two names, and told how to find the first house on her path to freedom. At the first house she was put into a wagon, covered with a sack, and driven to her next destination. Following the route to Pennsylvania, she initially settled in Philadelphia, where she met William Still, the Philadelphia Stationmaster on the Underground Railroad. With the assistance of Still, and other members of the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society, she learned about the workings of the UGRR.

In 1851 she began relocating members of her family to St. Catharines, (Ontario) Canada West. North Street in St. Catharines remained her base of operations until 1857. While there she worked at various activities to save to finance her activities as a Conductor on the UGRR, and attended the Salem Chapel BME Church on Geneva Street.

Her Role in the Underground Railroad
After freeing herself from slavery, Harriet Tubman returned to Maryland to rescue other members of her family. In all she is believed to have conducted approximately 300 persons to freedom in the North. The tales of her exploits reveal her highly spiritual nature, as well as a grim determination to protect her charges and those who aided them. She always expressed confidence that God would aid her efforts, and threatened to shoot any of her charges who thought to turn back."


Here is more on Harriet Tubman whose nickname was 'Moses' because of her work in leading African American slaves to freedom.