Harriet Tubman’s great, great, great niece visits New Haven for Juneteenth

Eyewitness News 11 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 10:17 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 17, 2022 at 11:20 PM EDT
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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WFSB) - There are Juneteenth holiday celebrations throughout the state this weekend, commemorating the emancipation of slaves.

The great, great, great niece of Harriet Tubman, who helped free slaves through the underground railroad, is in New Haven commemorating the holiday.

Perhaps one of the most well-known anti-slavery activists was harriet tubman.

She was a slave in Maryland who escaped and who helped rescue about 70 enslaved people using a network of safe houses known as the underground railroad.

Rita Daniels is her great, great, great niece.

“As she got older, she pretty much made it um in her mind that I am not going to be anybody’s slave,” said Daniels.

She says the stories of her aunt and her heroism have been passed down throughout the family for generations.

“Ever since she was a child, she was kind of rebellious. These are stories that were passed on to me that she was a rebellious child from the standpoint that she did not want to be a slave. She knew it was wrong. That was where that came from,” said Daniels.

As a slave, Tubman was never allowed to learn to read or write.

Daniels has made it her life’s mission to give underprivileged children the gift of literacy, something her aunt never had.

“Harriet Tubman was not given that opportunity. If anyone taught a slave how to read, they could be jailed,” she said. “This is the legacy that must continue of Harriet Tubman there is no way that I should let her legacy just die away.”

Daniels is the founder of the Harriet Tubman learning center in Georgia and plans to open other facilities around the country. Including here in Connecticut at the state’s first African American History Museum.

Organizers here are proud to have her support.

“It’s amazing to have someone as close to an historic figure like Harriet Tubman. I don’t think you are going to get much closer than her. And her coming to New Haven…it just amazing. This year is pretty unique it’s the 200th year anniversary of her birth, so it’s Harriet Tubman’s 200th birthday. You also have the first year that Juneteenth is a legal holiday,” said Wayne Winston, with the Harriet Tubman Learning Center Foundation.

Daniels leads many efforts to honor her aunt, including supporting efforts to put Tubman on the 20-dollar bill.

She says her aunt would likely be proud that Juneteenth is now a nationally recognized federal holiday.

She said she is glad to celebrate a day to commemorate history. “It’s important. I believe that if you don’t know where you came from, you’re really going to be stuck on where you are going.”

Daniels will be here at the CT Violence Intervention Center in New Haven for a big Juneteenth celebration. It is free.

There will be music and dancing. Fun for the entire family and a nice way to celebrate the holiday.