Through the diligent research of Kent Hermes, local history buff and Steve Williams, local historian and author in historic Georgetown, South Carolina. We have the opportunity to honor and recognize James A. Bowley, the beloved grandnephew of the famous Underground Railroad agent and freedom fighter, Harriet Tubman.
It was Tubman’s deep love for her family that propelled her to return to Maryland slave territory in December 1850 to rescue enslaved family members after her own escape in 1849. James Bowley, his baby sister Araminta, and their mother Kessiah were the first people Tubman rescued. Once free, Tubman ensured that James received a coveted education.
“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there's shouting after you, keep going. Don't ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.” ― Harriet Tubman
Denied the right to an education herself, Tubman knew that literacy was its own liberation. Working long hours to pay for James’ tuition in a Philadelphia school during the 1850’s secured his bright future. After the Civil War, Bowley settled at 231 King Street, Georgetown, SC, where he worked with newly freed people as a teacher and eventually Commissioner of 60 Georgetown County Schools. Supported by the Freedman’s Bureau and resources raised by Harriet Tubman and her allies in Auburn, NY, Bowley expanded educational opportunities for many.
He was eventually elected to the SC House of Representatives and served as chairman of the Ways and Means committee. A University of South Carolina Trustee, newspaper publisher, lawyer, Probate Judge and property owner, Bowley’s life represents tangible evidence of African American struggles and triumphs for family, freedom, equality, education, justice, self-determination, economic independence and community.
In the spirit of community-building, the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce is asking for your help in placing a historical marker at 231 King Street. Your generous donation will help us reach our fundraising goal of $2,500 by June 8, 2019.