Monday, February 28, 2011

Antoinette Harrell, modern-day Harriet Tubman

Nothing But Love: The family on the Modern Day Plantation give Antoinette Harrell a gift of love a shirt they created to express their love to her.  Photographer, Walter C. Black, Sr.

Most of the time we wait until it is everlastingly too late to get to know and appreciate a person's life work.  We want to then throw a lavish memorial to make up for not making an effort to discover enough about them to ensure we have the story right.  We have heroes and heroines working among us or further in the trenches.  Antoinette Harrell is such a person.

We remember Harriet Tubman for courageously helping her people to escape from bondage.  Antoinette Harrell, a modern-day Harriet Tubman has in her day recognized that this very same race of people endured the after effects of slavery and are yet caught in its grips.
Ines Soto- Caption: Gathering of Hearts founders Antoinette Harrell and Ines Soto-Palmarin leads the Southhaven Muhammad Study Group and the Bessie Jean Farrakan on a poverty tour in Webb, Ms.  Photographer, Walter C. Black, Sr.

You may call her the poor people's advocate.  She works to teach us that they are not in destitute conditions because they are lazy or choose to be.  When others turn their heads and take the other side of the road, the modern-day Tubman stops, accesses, helps, and show compassion to them through  Gathering of Hearts, a non-profit organization, which brings food, clothing, and shelter to those in need.

Antoinette on plantation: Antoinette Harrell talking with the families who live in sharecropper shacks in Webb, Ms. Photographer, Walter C. Black, Sr.

One such person, Ms. Mae L. Miller, grew up as a slave in Amite, Mississippi.  She walked into a genealogy reparations conference held in Amite, Louisiana on Good Friday. She told Harrell how she and her family were held as slaves.  Three days later on Easter Sunday, Harrell met with 105 year old Cain Wall, Sr and his family, and she spent the next 10 years interviewing and researching the subject of peonage and how it related  to  their family.

Harrell, whose family migrated from Darlington, South Carolina in 1803 with Levi Harrell and his son, Hezekiah, has deep roots in Amite, Louisiana and Amite, Mississippi.  Her ancestor along with the ancestors of Cain Wall, Sr are not related but were slaves in these areas.

"I believe if genealogists and family historians from every family would research the entire area, they would find stories that that will not be found any other way.  My second peonage research localities were Amite, Mississippi and Amite, Louisiana," said Antoinette Harrell.

Antoinette on plantation: Antoinette Harrell talking with the families who live in sharecropper shacks in Webb, Ms. Photographer, Walter C. Black, Sr.

Unfortunately, if your only attempt at genealogy is what Antoinette Harrell terms "safe genealogy," you may avoid the difficult parts of the story, but you will definitely miss the opportunity to partake in the redemptive part.  That part, I believe, is still unfolding.  When history is retold years from now, and we talk about freedom, we will remember Harriet Tubman still who helped slaves steal away from slavery, but we will also celebrate the life of Antoinette Harrell who helped many to be free from its effects.


  1. The documentary: Life On The Modern Day Plantation can be found where? Please email me: Thank you!

  2. Antoinette Harrell has been inspiring me since learning of the priceless work that she is doing.

  3. I am continually amazed by her strength, fortitude, and compassion. Her capacity for investigating and uncovering moments in history that need to be highlighted is unmatched. My hat is off to you Ms. Antoinette. You would make Harriet Tubman proud.

  4. Ms. Harrell is a kind, compassionate person who loves others unconditionally. My hero!

  5. Hi,

    I just saw the documentary "the slave detective" and applaud Ms Harell for her good & hard work. I myself am descendant of carribean people. And although Im not in the US I still feel deeply for all the people in the black diaspora. I want to know if its possible to make a donation to her/ her organisation?

    Kind regards, An Om all the way from the Netherlands.


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