Born into slavery on Maryland's Eastern Shore, Harriet's ancestors had been brought to America in shackles from Africa during the first half of the 18th Century. Harriet was the 11th child born to Benjamin Ross and Harriet Greene (slaves of Edward Brodas), her given name was Araminta and she was often called "Minty" as a child. But by the time she was an adult, she was calling herself Harriet. Harriet had bravely won her freedom, but realizing how alone she was, she made a vow that she would help her family and friends win their freedom as well. She went to Philadelphia, found work cooking, laundering and scrubbing, and saved money to finance rescue trips. She became involved with the city's large and active abolitionist (anti-slavery) organizations and with organizers of the Underground Railroad, a secret network through which slaves were helped in escaping from bondage in the South to freedom in the North and Canada. Using the Wilmington, Delaware, home of Quaker abolitionist Thomas Garrett (1789-1871) as a checkpoint, Harriet Tubman undertook some 20 hazardous missions in which she covertly journeyed down south, pinpointed slaves, and led them to freedom up north, at times going as far as Canada. In leading these flights, with a long rifle in hand, she warned her escapees that, if any of them even considered surrendering or returning, the penalty would be death. Her persuasiveness was evident in that never on any of her missions did she lose a "passenger" on the Underground Railroad. In addition to her nickname "Moses," for her bravery Harriet was dubbed "General" Tubman by the militant abolitionist John Brown, with whom she worked in Canada. William Still (who recorded activities of the Underground Railroad) described her as: "a woman of no pretensions, indeed, a more ordinary specimen of humanity could hardly be found among the most unfortunate-looking farm hands of the South. Yet, in point of courage, shrewdness and disinterested exertions to rescue her fellow-men ... she was without her equal.
Frederick Douglass was one of the foremost leaders of the abolitionist movement, which fought to end slavery within the United States in the decades prior to the Civil War. A brilliant speaker, Douglass was asked by the American Anti-Slavery Society to engage in a tour of lectures, and so became recognized as one of America's first great black speakers. He won world fame when his autobiography was publicized in 1845. Two years later he bagan publishing an antislavery paper called the North Star. Douglass fought for the adoption of constitutional amendments that guaranteed voting rights and other civil liberties for blacks. Douglass provided a powerful voice for human rights during this period of American history and is still revered today for his contributions against racial injustice.
The woman we know as Sojourner Truth was born into slavery in New York as Isabella Baumfree. In 1843, she took the name Sojourner Truth, believing this to be on the instructions of the Holy Spirit and became a traveling preacher (the meaning of her new name). In the late 1840s she connected with the abolitionist movement, becoming a popular speaker. In 1850, she also began speaking on woman suffrage. Her most famous speech, Aint I a Woman?, was given in 1851 at a women's rights convention in Ohio. During the Civil War Sojourner Truth raised food and clothing contributions for black regiments, and met Abraham Lincoln at the White House in 1864. While there, she tried to challenge the discrimination that segregated street cars by race. After the War ended, Sojourner Truth again spoke widely, advocating for some time a "Negro State" in the west. She spoke mainly to white audiences, and mostly on religion, "Negro" and women's rights, and on temperance, though immediately after the Civil War she tried to organize efforts to provide jobs for black refugees from the war.
born August 17, 1887 in St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica, and spent his entire life in the service of his people--African people. He was bold; he was uncompromising and he was one of the most powerful orators on record. He could literally bring his audiences to a state of mass hysteria. Garvey emphasized racial pride. His goal was nothing less that the total and complete redemption and liberation of African people around the planet. His dream was the galvanization of Black people into an unrelenting steamroller that could never be defeated. As a young man of fourteen, Garvey left school and worked as a printer's apprentice. He participated in Jamaica's earliest nationalist organizations, traveled throughout Central America, and spent time in London, England, where he worked with the Sudanese-Egyptian nationalist Duse Mohamed Ali. In 1916 Garvey was invited by Booker T. Washington to come to the United States in the hopes of establishing an industrial training school, but arrived just after Washington died. In March 1916, shortly after landing in America, Garvey embarked upon an extended period of travel. When he finally settled down, he organized a chapter of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League. The UNIA & ACL had been formed in Jamaica in 1914. Its motto was "One God, One Aim, One Destiny," and pledged itself to the redemption of Africa and the uplift of Black people everywhere. It aimed at race pride, self-reliance and economic independence. Within a few years Garvey had become the best-known and most dynamic African leader in the Western Hemisphere and perhaps the entire world. In 1919 Mr. Garvey created an international shipping company called the Black Star Line. By 1920 the UNIA had hundreds of divisions. It hosted elaborate international conventions and published a weekly newspaper entitled the Negro World. No other organization in modern times has had the prestige and the impact as the UNIA & ACL. During the 1920s UNIA divisions existed throughout North, South and Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, Europe and Australia.