Mobile Augusta

Tue. Sep. 30 3:47 pm
Sunday, Sept. 9, 2001

Who are the Tubmans?

Staff Photographer
Jonathan Ernst/File
Emily Tubman

PART I

Emily H. Tubman is known to many as a philanthropist whose generosity supported schools, churches and other institutions in Augusta in the mid-1800s.

Before that, however, she was known as one of the city's finest hostesses - the well-to-do wife of Richard Tubman, a prominent businessman and landowner. He was 52, when he met the 24-year-old Kentucky belle who won his heart.

"As a young lady, she was sprightly and beautiful, and combined a gentle disposition with exquisite graces of person - with rare qualities of the head and heart," said Emily's obituary, published in The Augusta Chronicle on June 9, 1885.

Richard died in 1836. In accordance with his will, Emily freed their slaves. Through a colonization society, she financed their trip to Africa, where they started farms, churches and schools.

Emily lived a full life for nearly 50 years after her husband died, a life notable for the piles of money she made and the piles of money she gave away.

"Mrs. Tubman, with the heart of a woman, had much the capacity of a man...." her obituary said. "She was far-seeing and discriminative even in her good works, and managed her estate as she dispensed her favors, with rare appropriateness and precision."

Emily died at age 91 and was buried in Frankfort, Ky. Richard is buried at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Reynolds Street.

PART II

WILLIAM V.S. "SHAD" TUBMAN

William V.S. "Shad" Tubman is the grandson of Tubman slaves William S. Tubman and Sylvia Cummings. He was president of Liberia from 1944 to 1971, a period of unprecedented economic and social growth.

To some he was a hero.

"Liberians are Africans; and Africans are hero-worshippers," wrote Richard Henries in his preface to The Biography of William V.S. Tubman, by his wife, Doris Henries. "President William V.S. Tubman is a Liberian hero; and the people of Liberia honor him highly. One wonders why so much ado is made over this individual. The answer is very simple; he loves the people, so the people love him."

He was less adored by others who say he abused his power, changing the constitution to extend his rule and by persecuting political foes.

His regime lasted 27 years until his death in 1971 from complications of prostate surgery.

PART III

SHAD TUBMAN JR.

Shad Tubman Jr. is President Tubman's oldest son. He was a senator and statesman in Liberia until a bloody coup in 1980 forced him into a quieter life outside the spotlight of Liberian politics. Later he sought safe harbor in America throughout a devastating civil war that raged from 1989 to 1997, and still smolders today.

He and his wife, Wokie, operate a Christian ministry in the Harlem area of New York City. Shad hopes to return to Liberia soon to establish the ministry there and help heal the country that meant so much to his father - and Liberia's founding fathers, his grandparents' and great-grandparents' generations.

"What I tell my Liberian compatriots when I talk to them is to try to be like the Jews, he says." "No matter where a Jew is, he doesn't forget Israel. Don't forget Liberia. Send your children home from time to time to know their culture. Let them know that they have a home there. Build something; do something."

Index