Storyteller brings Harriet Tubman, icon of courage and freedom, to life in Hoag presentation

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 April 2023 at 8:13 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Almeta Whitis of Rochester portrays Harriet Tubman in a presentation on Tuesday evening at Hoag Library. Whitis has been telling the story of Tubman’s life for 50 years.

Tubman led more than 300 slaves to freedom on 22 trips on the Underground Railroad, leading many of those people to Canada. She also was a nurse, spy and was the only woman to lead troops into battle for the Union Army during the Civil War.

“She was a force to be reckoned with as most Black women are,” Whitis said.

Almeta Whitis sang several spirituals during her presentation, including “Wade Into the Water” and the “forbidden song” of “Go Down, Moses.” If Slaves sang “Go Down, Moses” they could be whipped or killed.

“Go down, Moses

’Way down in Egypt land,

Tell ole Pharaoh,

To let my people go.”

Whitis said Tubman used songs to let Slaves know she was there and was ready to lead them to freedom up north or to Canada.

Tubman was the first woman to serve as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Whitis shared how Tubman suffered a head injury from an overseer that plagued her throughout her life, causing intense migraines and often causing her to fall asleep suddenly, even when talking with people.

Tubman is revered as an iconic hero of freedom and courage and is due to be on the $20 bill beginning in 2030.

Almeta Whitis gave a high-energy, first-person narrative performance to about 25 people at the Hoag Library. The event was organized by the Community Coalition of Justice.

“We are all put on this earth to be in the human family and to live in harmony,” Whitis said.