African American History in Western Massachusetts

Harriet Tubman & The Underground Railroad

In addition to your literary explorations of African Americans’ creativity and contributions to U.S. literature, explore African American History Month in Western Massachusetts through the different cultural organizations and institutions that educate the public on the history of African Americans in our region.

One of the most significant pieces of New England history is the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes, stops, and places throughout 14 northern states that were established to help escaped slaves to freedom.

Harriet Tubman (1822-1913)

One famous “conductor” of the Underground Railroad was Harriet Tubman.  An escaped slave herself, she risked her life to help approximately 300 slaves escape to freedom by making 19 return trips to the South through the Underground Railroad’s secret network of places and routes.

In April of 2016 Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced that the front of the new $20 bill will replace the image of Andrew Jackson with the image of Harriet Tubman.   He also announced plans to feature the images of leaders of the suffrage movement including Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Alice Paul.  Additionally, the reverse of the new $5 bill will include other prominent women and people of color who shaped our democracy such as Marian Anderson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King Jr.  For further reading, see the New York Time’s article “Harriet Tubman Ousts Andrew Jackson in Change for a $20.


Download our Jan/Feb edition of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts for embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

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