Tubman, Harriet Ross
1821 - 1913
Leader of the Underground Railroadby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Araminta, nicknamed "Minty", was headstrong from the start. Born in 1821 she was a hard working slave girl who grew up in Maryland. At the age of 5, Minty suffered under the hands of cruel masters who whipped her for doing her household chores incorrectly. Later on in life, she labored in the fields; this was work that better suited her strong personality. Araminta suffered a head injury at age 15 when she boldly blocked a fellow slave from being punished; moreover, she lived with reoccurring blackouts. In her teen years, Minty changed her name to that of her mother Harriet.
Harriet recognized God’s hand working in her life at an early age. Calling out to God, she constantly asked her heavenly master for the strength to carry on. She even prayed for her superior’s salvation and change of heart. Harriet learned that she was going away to the Deep South as part of a chain gang. She prayed that if God wouldn’t change her master’s stubborn heart, he would be struck down dead. God answered her earnest prayers when her master mysteriously died; however, she was devastated that he never came to know Christ. Her petitions to the Lord became more frequent and she cried out to God asking Him to wash her clean of sin.
Around 1844, Harriet married a free black named John Tubman. She lived in constant fear that she would be shipped away and knew that if she told John of her plans to run away, he would report her to the authorities. She felt God prompting her to flee north and Philadelphia became her place of safety.
Harriet Tubman’s arrival to Philadelphia in 1849 brought her to the realization that she was lonesome in her new surroundings, so she resolved to rescue her family and bring them to live with her to begin a new life of freedom. She worked hard earning money to aid in her journey and to prepare a home for her relatives.
Thus began the Underground Railroad, a path that led slaves to a new life and was guided by none other than Harriet Tubman herself. Cunning and quick, she brought slaves from Maryland twice a year to northern states where they found refuge. She became known for her ability to free slaves and maneuver safe getaways.
During the next year, Harriet Tubman was a free woman; however, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed and she became a wanted woman. This law did not hinder her efforts; instead, she brought slaves to Canada where they were assured freedom and safety. Harriet spoke at meetings against slavery and proved herself to be a great orator. Reward for her capture climbed higher and higher as her success became more apparent to the public. Eventually the amount rose to 40,000 dollars, but God always kept her hidden and unharmed.
There were many instances of God prompting Harriet to alter her plans and travel different paths as she conducted groups of slaves to freedom. One example was when she was guiding several men and she felt God telling her to go across a river instead of taking the usual path on land. The slaves were terrified at the thought of crossing the currents but Harriet held her chin up high and stepped into the water and led the men carefully to dry land. They later found that if Tubman had taken the easier road, the slaves would have been captured by a group of men waiting for their arrival. Another time, God told Harriet that her parents were in danger so she boldly marched up to a house and asked for travel money from the owner. She was refused any help; however, she slept outside and in the morning was given 60 dollars for her journey to save her parents. Her father was in trouble with the law and Harriet reached him just in time and brought them to Canada. Though she was a woman of small stature, her strength and determination far outweighed her height. She trusted God to provide for her journeys and listened to the Lord’s callings when she led slaves to freedom.
As the Civil War began, Harriet was asked to be a nurse and teacher to former slaves. She also contributed to the war effort by organizing scouts and spies and she often led groups in search of useful information. She became known as the first woman to organize and carry out a successful mission and produced astounding results. Tubman had a way with people and sometimes sang to the soldiers to calm their nerves. Not only a soldier, scout and spy, Harriet was also a recruiter. She freed 750 black men and rallied them to join the “colored regiment” and most of them did.
Harriet Tubman was unstoppable. She went from a slave girl to one of the most influential abolitionists of her time to a soldier in the Union army. God gave her extraordinary talent and wisdom throughout her entire life and she delivered nearly 300 slaves from captivity with the Underground Railroad. She could have lived in peace after her arrival in Philadelphia but she had a higher calling and her efforts produced much fruit because of her obedience to God.
In 1913, Harriet Tubman died of pneumonia. Her journey to freedom finally ended and her new life began as she went to meet her eternal master. Harriet’s amazing work on the Underground Railroad was absolutely remarkable and for this she will always be remembered.
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