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West Not the First to Use Tubman Metaphor

Bill Clark/Roll Call

Rep. Allen West raised eyebrows earlier this week when he referred to himself as a “modern-day Harriet Tubman” leading blacks out of the slavery created by social welfare programs.

But it turns out the Florida Republican is not the first tea party activist to employ the metaphor.

In a new FreedomWorks documentary — called “Runaway Slave” — another black conservative makes the same historical leap. “We got a new underground railroad 2.0,” says Alfonzo Rachel, a conservative commentator with Pajamas Media, in a trailer for the yet-to-be-released film. “We are kind of like the Harriet Tubmans of our day.”

The film trailer lays out basically the same argument West was making on Fox News earlier this week, that African-Americans are enslaved by their reliance on the big government led by the Democrats. The film is filled with railroad imagery, including a narrator clutching a railroad spike.

In a television interview Wednesday, West described a “21st-century plantation” where “the Democrat Party has forever taken the black vote for granted and you have established certain black leaders who are nothing more than the overseers of that plantation. And now the people on that plantation are upset because they’ve been disregarded, disrespected and their concerns are not cared about.”

“So I’m here as the modern-day Harriet Tubman to kind of lead people on the underground railroad away from that plantation into a sense of sensibility.”

That didn’t go over so well, especially with the black Democrats he described as “overseers”: the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.).

A spokesman for West said he had not seen the new FreedomWorks film and said the Congressman would not be available to discuss it. However, West is traveling to Israel this week to participate in an event organized by broadcaster Glenn Beck, and FreedomWorks is planning to film the end of the documentary at the same event.

The documentary is the latest minority outreach project from FreedomWorks, the Washington-based tea party group led by former Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas). The organization has worked to counter accusations of racism and to expand the tea party movement beyond the mostly white male demographic, promoting black, Hispanic and female supporters on its website.

“What we’ve really tapped into is an undercurrent in the black conservative movement,” said Adam Brandon, a spokesman for FreedomWorks, which has raised more than $32,000 to support the project. Asked if West had plagiarized the new film, Brandon said, “I’d be honored if he had.”

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