Relative of Harriet Tubman happy to see new bill addressing slavery reparations

Commission to consider reparations for slavery

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The oldest-living relative of Harriet Tubman, 96-year-old Pauline Copes Johnson from Auburn, says she never thought she would be alive to see this happen, but she’s happy she is.

That’s her reaction to New York Governor Kathy Hochul signing a bill into law on December 19 to set up a commission to consider reparations for slavery.

Tubman was enslaved, and after escaping, helped free approximately 70 others enslaved using the Underground Railroad.

The new law, which was passed by state lawmakers back in June, says the commission will examine the institution of slavery — which was fully abolished in New York by 1827, and its ongoing impact on Black New Yorkers today.

News10NBC’s Marsha Augustin spoke to Johnson who was accompanied by her daughter, Deidre.

“I think it would be a very good beginning,” says Johnson. “Because Harriet, she was very brave, and I don’t know if I could do that.”

Johnson says it’s important that we start the work — it’s overdue.