SALISBURY, MD---When Harriet Tubman led escaped slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad, her brave acts helped pave the way for African-Americans in the United States for generations to come.
Today, community leaders like Dr. Clara Small, professor of history at Salisbury University, are ensuring those deeds are not forgotten.
For her efforts in preserving Tubman’s memory, Small is the African-American Tourism Council of Maryland’s 2011 Harriet Ross Tubman Lifetime Achievement Award honoree.
“I cannot think of any individual more deserving of this award than Dr. Clara Small,” said SU President Janet Dudley-Eshbach. “Her efforts to preserve and promote African-American history, including Harriet Tubman, are well known throughout the state. Her dedication, however, does not end there. A leader on campus and in the community, her reputation as a scholar and educator extends beyond Maryland. We are proud that she has spent more than three decades enriching young minds at Salisbury University and that she continues to be a shining star at our Maryland University of National Distinction.”
Small also will be recognized during the Maryland General Assembly on Thursday, March 10, during the 11th annual Harriet Ross Tubman Day of Remembrance, commemorating the 98th anniversary of Tubman’s death in 1913.
In addition to helping establish the Underground Railroad, Tubman aided the Union Army during the Civil War, recruiting and training spies and scouts, and leading at least one charge along the Combahee River in South Carolina that disrupted Southern supply lines and freed more than 750 slaves. Following the war she promoted education in the South and, with friend and supporter Susan B. Anthony, became a national spokeswoman for the suffrage movement.
A member of the Maryland Governor’s Commission to Study the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland, Small is well known in the community for her talks on African-American and women’s history, averaging about 90 each year at schools, churches, prisons, halfway houses and civic meetings.
She is the author of an article, “Abolitionists, Free Blacks and Runaway Slaves: Surviving Slavery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in the book A History of African-Americans on Maryland’s and Delaware’s Eastern Shore, and two books: A Reality Check: Brief Biographies of African-Americans on Delmarva and, with the Rev. David Briddell, Men of Color, to Arms! Manumitted Slaves and Free Blacks From the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland Who Served in the Civil War.
In addition to her scholarly work, she adds her leadership to a number of local organizations, including Pemberton Hall Manor, SU’s Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, and the Thomas E. Polk Sr. chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers. Through a grant from the Community Foundation, she helped promote and sponsor the annual Buffalo Soldiers Summer Youth Workshop to educate area children.
At SU, Small has been a noteworthy professor both in and out of the classroom. She has served as an advisor to the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the first African-American sorority on campus. She was the long-time advisor for SU’s Union of African-American Students and was a catalyst for establishing a student chapter of the NAACP.
She also organized the Maryland Gamma chapter of the Pi Gamma Mu honor society in the social sciences at SU, serving as its co-advisor since 1982. Nationally, she was named its chancellor of the northeastern region in 1991 and has been re-elected to the post every three years since. In 2005, the international organization honored her with its Faithful Service Award.
Beyond her service to the campus, Small has provided food and comfort to those in need. She coordinated efforts in the Salisbury community to send more than 140 boxes of relief supplies to victims of Hurricane Floyd in her native North Carolina, going beyond local collection to drive three vanloads of food, blankets, clothing and other needed items to the stricken area. She was the first person at SU to organize relief efforts for victims in Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. At the local level, she continues to coordinate the collection of non-perishable goods for the Maryland Food Bank in Salisbury and other agencies.
Small is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the University System of Maryland’s highest faculty honor, the Board of Regents Award for Excellence, and the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore’s Frank H. Morris Humanitarian Award. She also has earned the Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Council’s Tee O’Conner Award for outstanding contributions to African-American heritage issues, as well as the Wicomico County Commission for Women’s Community Service Award and the SU Alumni Association’s Faculty Appreciation Award.
TEXT and IMAGE CREDIT: Salisbury University · 1101 Camden Ave. · Salisbury, MD 21801 · 410-543-6000 For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu.