An Introduction: by Joyce Stokes Jones
Hope and a vision of what can be are the salvation of our children. Parents, extended family and teachers of our children must instill in them not only the values of faith and love, but the esteemed value of hope. With hope, anything is possible. Clinging to it, children can transform the world. Beyond the Underground. Aunt Harriet, Moses of Her People is a story of optimism. Its purpose is to educate, inspire and celebrate the spirit of freedom and equality. It is a riveting narrative of a woman who epitomizes hope. Harriet Tubman leaves the world a unifying legacy of faith, family, freedom and fortitude. Her message will resonate with the young and old, alike.
This historical account delves into the genealogical roots of my family and its struggle to survive slavery and racism. Beyond the Underground. Aunt Harriet, Moses of Her People chronicles my investigation into the circumstances and significant events that shaped the lives of the Green Ross family, while focusing on Harriet (Ross) Tubman, one of America’s greatest and bravest heroines. It is a poignant story that describes, in detail, the nuances and realities of slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and alludes to the paradox of winning freedom in states above the Mason Dixon Line and in Canada. The backbone of this work explores the relationships between family members, their masters, and friends, all of whom helped to shape the Harriet Tubman saga.
Over the past three decades, I have traveled as far south as Bucktown, Maryland and as far north as St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, to unlock the doors to my family history. Fortunate enough to discover Aunt Harriet’s grandmother, Modesty, and her courageous resolve to survive the Middle Passage as a captured slave from Ghana, West Africa. Knowledgeable about four of our family’s slave masters. I uncovered the abolitionist activities of Aunt Harriet’s father and the belligerence of her mother and learned about the horrendous details of the murder of Aunt Harriet’s first husband, John Tubman, as well as her second marriage to Nelson Charles Davis, a civil war veteran. Awed by Aunt Harriet’s courage to return to the south to bring her family and other Negroes out of bondage, included her young niece sister Ann Marie (Ross) Stewart Elliott who was my great grandmother. Ultimately, Aunt Harriet’s life was more dynamic and humbling than is often documented.
While this work, Beyond the Underground. Aunt Harriet, Moses of Her People would be my greatest achievement, I have celebrated African American heritage through several other efforts. In the early 1970’s, I wrote a recurring column for the local Syracuse newspapers called Black Heritage. I also produced the Black Heritage series for the local public broadcasting network. In addition, I produced a video titled, “A Conversation with A Living Relative of Harriet Tubman”; and later created a limited edition of handmade Harriet Tubman dolls. Today, we have a photographic documentary available which chronicles my Proud Heritage Journey to Ghana.
Over the last several years, I have worked diligently to compile my research and compose a book based on my findings. The book explores the journey of Modesty across the Middle Passage through Harriet’s escape from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It examines Aunt Harriet’s life as a free woman in Pennsylvania, New York and Canada, and her later years preceding death in the small town of Fleming, in Central New York. Integrated throughout the work are reflections on the parallels between my family’s life and Aunt Harriet’s with regard to race and discrimination.
In celebration of the contributions and achievements of Aunt Harriet, we can only hope that sharing my version of her life story will pay a lasting tribute to her memory and accomplishments.
The intention of this book is to educate, inspire and give you pause for reflection, as you take this literary journey with me into the life and times of Aunt Harriet and her family and friends. All of whom endured the institution of slavery, escaped the ravages of it, worked to eradicate it, and ultimately tasted the fruits of freedom. As a relative of this great heroine, I urge all of you to ensure that freedom is valued and sustained for all people, here and across the world. All of my faithful and loving ancestors would wave their hands over their heads and say amen to Hope!
– Joyce Stokes Jones
Great, Great Grandniece of Harriet Tubman