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(315) 312-2265
CONTACT: Mary Loe, 312-3541
April 9, 2003
OSWEGO -- SUNY Oswego Librarian Mary Loe will discuss her research on Harriet Tubman when she presents "Bit by Bit" at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, April 23, in Room 106A of Lanigan Hall as part of the college's annual Quest symposium. Her talk will be one of more than 120 Quest presentations, all of which will be free and open to the public.
Loe will discuss the history of the hero of the Underground Railroad and the research she conducted on Tubman's life and role in the abolitionist movement.
The fact that the last authoritative biography on Tubman was done in 1943 motivated her to do start exploring, Loe said. "The only books currently in print are for children," she said. She noted that many famous people have mentioned Tubman in their speeches, and yet little information on her was available.
During her six-month sabbatical, Loe discovered that two other women were also researching Tubman. Instead of conducting redundant research, the three decided to join forces. Loe contributed her present knowledge and visited Tubman's longtime home of Auburn to perform follow-up work on censuses from the 1850s.
She conducted additional work researching the freedom trail that routed escaped slaves northward. She sought out information on safe houses along the way -- whether or not they were still standing -- and the abolitionists along the route who helped the former slaves.
With the information that she gathered during her sabbatical, she developed a database of all of the names of the people that she encountered, their relationships to the movement, and the three censuses of 1853, 1854 and 1855. She said she hopes that her findings can also assist leaders in Auburn.
Due in part to Tubmanıs illiteracy, she left no personal memoirs and recorded speeches were nonexistent. However, two letters written by family members were found and eventually will be published to correct previously recorded facts, Loe said.
For instance, it has been implied that Tubman's parents were slaves and that, in their old age, she brought them across the freedom trail. Loe said the reality is that Tubman's father had bought his own freedom and later his wifeıs freedom so they could come to the North.
Loe said her research is "the beginning stage of documents that can be useful for the future" to correct the mistakes of the past. The task ahead will take time and research, she said, but she believes it will be completed "bit by bit."
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