Well, to paraphrase as Leonard Cohen sang, “Everything has a crack in it, that’s how the light gets in…”
Ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in
From Anthem by Leonard Cohen
It appears I was “snookered” along with a whole lot of other people on the quote on our plaque.
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” -Harriet Tubman (1822-1913)
It appears that Harriet Tubman did not say the words attributed to her on the plaque.
Thanks to Toronto historian Kathy Grant, I’m aware of the problem with the plaque wording.
Here’s the back story. We did our best three years ago in terms of due diligence, believing our sources were valid and checking with various authorities. However, this was before the word was out there on the Net that this was very likely not Harriet Tubman’s words even though a scholar discovered that the quote didn’t begin to appear until 2007. http://www.harriettubmanbiography.com/harriet-tubman-myths-and-facts.html
Here was one of our original sources for the quote:
Our own [belated] search for original 19th century sources came up with nothing, no evidence that Harriet Tubman said this or anything like this. However, there is an eerie echoe from another leading Black American:
How easy, then, by emphasis and omission to make children believe that every great soul the world ever saw was a white man’s soul; that every great thought the world ever knew was a white man’s thought; that every great deed the world ever did was a white man’s deed; that every great dream the world ever sang was a white man’s dream. — W.E.B. Dubois, W.E.B. Dubois, Darkwater: voices from within the veil, 1920, p. 2
The sentiments in the quote purportedly from Harriet Tubman are still true though the quotes we have from her are generally pithy and too the point.
But the real value of the plaque is not that quote but the recognition of the people and families who came here and made their homes here after escaping slavery. Their lives were hard, marked by tragedy all too often.
I can personally vouch for the research on that and am more than happy to share the sources with anyone who is interested. If it brings a little more light to this history through this particular crack, then good.
“When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven”.
Harriet Tubman, Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman by Sarah Hopkins Bradford, 1869
PS We should say up front that the quote is “attributed to Harriet Tubman”.