The Tubman Museum in Macon, Georgia, is a notably interesting experience. It owes its existence to a-now-84-year-old Catholic priest named Richard Keil, who devoted his life to social justice and wrote a book called Lessons Along the Way. It’s available in the gift shop. The Tubman is named for Harriet Tubman, the dynamic African American woman who, according to Patricia, the lady who welcomed us to this attraction that specializes in African American art, history, and culture, led 300 to 700 people to freedom via the Underground Railroad. This museum’s stated goal is to “showcase the positive”.
Ruth and I began our time in a museum dedicated to a woman who was born in Maryland and lived most of her life in New York by watching a film about the Underground Railroad made by the Learning Corporation of America. It told the story of an almost white (the film’s words, not mine) woman who married a definitely African American man. She claimed to be “scared to death” as they prepared their escape. Called “Running 1,000 Miles to Freedom”, The film told the story of their journey from some place in Georgia to Savannah and then on to Boston. The husband cuts his wife’s hair to disguise her as a male invalid. He pretended to be her slave as they traveled northward. They encountered many prejudiced folks as they proceeded to Boston. They journeyed on to England where they had 5 children before returning. Their final indignity was having a reservation not honored, just like the wealthy hotel-buying mother in Crazy Rich Asians. Described as “an authentic slave narrative”, this film was hosted by the actual great granddaughter of the disguised woman who took the Underground Railroad to freedom. During the film, my attention often strayed to Andrew Malcolm’s portrait called “Young Girl” that was next to the screen. It’s above.
Also on the first floor near the theater was Untold Stories: Macon’s African American History. I was told this display is permanent. It tells the stories of residents of note, like controversial C jack Ellis, the man with a finger on his chin. Ellis was in the U.S. Army for 20 years, became a TV host, and then he went on to serve as Macon’s only African American mayor for 2 terms. This exhibit hopes to illuminate elements of the African American experience in Macon. It does.
Upstairs is fine art that is temporary by African Americans and a tribute to Harriet Tubman that is quite informative. Ex-prizefighter O.L. Samuels sculpted “Henry The Lion”. Made of wood, it might not be in the Tubman Museum when and if you visit. I spent a lot of time studying the “African American Achievements in the New Century”. The picture below is a brief glimpse of this large mural.
I spent even more time learning about Tubman, who lived into her 90s. Born a slave, she earned the nickname Moses, briefly married John Tubman and gave birth to a daughter, knew the leading abolitionists of her day, brought her parents from Canada to New York to live with her, remarried, and suffered from headaches and seizures throughout her life. I know this because Patricia graciously gave me a sheet containing 10 interesting facts about Harriet Tubman. The bonus fact was that in 2016 the U.S. Treasury said that her face would one day appear on a new $20 bill. This is well deserved and overdue.
ps This gallery has announced that a Black Music in Macon exhibition will open this month. Macon greats include Little Richard, Otis Redding, and the Allman Brothers Band.