After the rapper said during an erratic campaign event that Tubman "didn't really free the slaves," a relative told TMZ: "If it hadn’t been for people like her, he would still be on that plantation"

By Adam Carlson
July 21, 2020 02:05 PM
Advertisement

Harriet Tubman's great-great-great-niece Tina Wyatt didn't mince words this week after Kanye West said the famed abolitionist "never actually freed the slaves, she just had the slaves go work for other white people."

Speaking with TMZ on Tuesday, Wyatt said: "If it hadn’t been for people like her, he would still be on that plantation. He would not be able to be out there saying the things he says and he wouldn’t have the money he has because they would have it all."

She told the outlet that West's criticism of her great-great-great-aunt, whom she calls "Aunt Harriet," showed that "he doesn’t even understand who she was."

"I don’t even understand what he meant when he said that 'she did what she did so they could go work for white people,' " Wyatt continued. "I don’t understand what that meant."

She went on to say that Tubman's advice to West, 43, now would be to "uplift."

"I don’t know if he’s doing it or not, I don’t know where he’s putting his money," Wyatt told TMZ. "Put your money into something that will uplift other people," she said. "Him ... running to be president is not one of them."

West's remark about Tubman came during an emotionally erratic, hourlong appearance in South Carolina on Sunday ostensibly in support of his unlikely presidential campaign, which he formally launched last week.

When he spoke about Tubman — a former slave who escaped to freedom in the mid 1800s before helping dozens of other slaves get free along the "Underground Railroad" — he drew audible disapproval from attendees.

(The moment echoed a 2018 controversy when West said he felt like the enslavement of black people in America was a "choice": “You hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years?! That sounds like a choice,” he said then.)

From left: Tina Wyatt and Kanye West
Shannon Finney/Getty; George Pimentel/Getty

Elsewhere during Sunday's event, West began to scream and cry has he talked about why he is against abortion: He said that he and wife Kim Kardashian West had considered aborting oldest daughter North and that his late father, Ray West, had wanted to abort him but his mother, Donda West, did not.

A source later told PEOPLE: "Kim is shocked that Kanye spoke about North at the rally. She is furious that he shared something so private."

"She loves her kids tremendously and wants to protect them," the source said. "Her favorite thing in the world is being a mom."

West's South Carolina event followed a headline-grabbing, wide-ranging Forbes interview earlier this month in which he described some of his political positions, including criticizing vaccination as "the mark of the beast" and saying the White House should be run like a fictional country from Black Panther.

"You know I was out there, ended up in the hospital, people were calling me crazy," he told Forbes. "I'm not crazy."

Following years of speculation from fans, particularly after he was hospitalized for a "psychiatric emergency" in November 2016, West seemingly confirmed that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2018 with the release of his album Ye — which bore the phrase "I Hate Being Bipolar. It's Awesome" on the cover.

"I had never been diagnosed until I was 39," he said during an interview with radio host Big Boy soon afterward. "But like I said on the album, it's not a disability, it's a superpower."

Later that year West said that he had been misdiagnosed and was actually suffering from sleep deprivation. But in subsequent interviews, both he and his wife confirmed his diagnosis.

Kanye West
Matt Baron/Shutterstock
From left: Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West
JEAN-BAPTISTE LACROIX/AFP via Getty Images

In a 2019 Vogue cover story, Kardashian West, 39, said that her husband had again accepted that he is bipolar, though he opted out of treating the disorder with pharmaceuticals.

"For him, being on medication is not really an option, because it just changes who he is," she said, adding, "It is an emotional process, for sure."

A source told PEOPLE earlier this month that West had been "doing well for a long time. In the past, he has suffered both manic and depressive episodes related to his bipolar disorder."

"Right now," the source said, "he is struggling again."