Today, as the AAHM&CC Celebrates Harriet Tubman Day, we remember not just the sacrifices our elders have made for us, but also the long and ongoing struggle to get them the respect they deserve.
Harriet Tubman is remembered as an icon for abolitionism.
She should also be remembered as an icon in the struggle for African American army veterans to receive their pensions!
Lesser known is the fact that, after the standing army phase of that war ended, it would be 33 years before Harriet Tubman would receive her army pension.
Tubman had no birth certificate, because she was born into chattel slavery some time in the early 1820s or late 1810s. So, she was at least 43 in 1865 when Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, at least 55 in 1877 when the Union formally abandoned Reconstruction and surrendered the South to Jim Crow rule for the next nine decades. And she was at least 68 in 1890 when the Second Morrill Act established the HBCU colleges.
She did not begin receiving her small pension until 1898, by which time she was at least 76. Even then, the matter of giving her a tiny pension was so controversial that it took a heated debate in the federal Congress to make it happen!
Harriet Tubman died on March 10th, 1913, at somewhere between the ages of 91 and 98.
Seventy-Four-year-old AAHM&CC Co-Founder Omari Tahir Garrett is also a US army veteran who is also to this day receiving neither his army pension nor his full regular social security check, which is a ongoing living example of continued racial inequality within the Social Security program, a overall progressive program which, nevertheless, was founded in such a racist way that, for the first 20 years of its existence, it actually widened the wealth gap between “white” and “non-white” households instead of narrowing it.
This March 10th, in honor of Harriet Tubman, we call for the dignity and human rights of all women, all veterans, and all African Americans.