Born in the slave quarters in Maryland in 1821, Harriet Tubman eventually escaped to freedom to become one the most powerful and inspiring American icons when it comes to promoting the cause of freedom. She became the central image of the Underground Railroad in the period of American Slavery. As a little girl she did mostly field work and had to endure harsh and violent treatment at the hands of her master Even though she had learned to be strong and endure hardship, this treatment caused a head injury that tormented her most of her life, with moments of pain and dizziness.(Baggett).
When her master died she escaped in 1849 to Philadelphia where she engaged in farm work and she also traveled as far north as Canada. All in all she made more than nineteen trips to the south to assist escaping slaves as well as her own family members. Her husband, who had refused to escape with her the first time, had remarried when she returned for him (Humez). Nevertheless Harriet went forward with passion.
But when it comes to inspiration, Harriet is both the inspired and the inspiration. While a slave in Maryland and yet a little girl, Harriet heard about the Nat Turner uprising in which Nat Turner and a band of followers rose up against their slave owners and killed them. Although the slave offensive was eliminated, Harriet Tubman was inspired by the incident. She believed that God had lead and guided Nat Turner (Baggett). She was inspired to give up her life for a similar cause, although in a more heroic and peaceful way.
Another source of inspiration and perhaps the main source for her courage to escape from slavery was her deep trust in God. “She had mentioned that she had always informed God that she trusted in him” (Donnelly). This trust gave her the courage to make nineteen trips back to the south and help free over three hundred slaves. She believed with conviction that all men where created equal. (Donnelly). This conviction was something to live for and something to die for. She believed that if God allowed her to be caught that it was meant to be. She believed that God was her strength and he was the protector of the weak. This was the kind of trust in God that gave her the fortitude to risk her own life time and time again. Freedom for her and others was more valuable than her immediate life.
In addition, Harriet Tubman exercised great discipline in returning back to the south to help execute the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was not an actual railroad underground but it was a system of getting slaves to freedom. Neither was Harriet Tubman alone in the execution of the Underground Railroad. Her friendship and relationship with white abolitionist and other free blacks made her rescue mission possible (Donnelly). However, Harriet Tubman was the most conviction driven and proactive in the strategies used in bringing freedom to escaping slaves. Most of the escaping of slaves was executed on Friday nights so that the slave owners would not notice absences until early Monday morning when it was time for the slaves returned to work (Donnelly). This was the same strategy in which she helped her own parents to escape. Of course, not all slaves where fortunate enough to escape. Some slaves got lost and got caught and was severely punished. Nevertheless the slaves that did escape required great discipline and emotional fortitude on the part of Harriet Tubman to get them to freedom. First of all, Harriet had to be constantly in prayer for guidance. She never made any decisions on her own logic. The answers she got from God were like silver and gold and precious stones. If God told her not to proceed in a particular direction she did not go in the path. “God had to see her through” (Donnelly). Without the commitment to follow God’s voice, she probably believed that that whole escape venture would end in tragedy. Secondly, she had to discipline herself to disregard the attacks of her physical health. She suffered some times from painful headaches and dizziness, as result of a severe head injury she had suffered as a little girl (Clinton) Once again, her reliance on God as a comforter gave her sufficient strength to overcome this affliction and continue her mission.
Also, Harriet’s emotional fortitude was tested in her engineering the Underground Railroad. Her returning time and time again to the south disregarded the fears and threats that confronted her day after day. A $40,000 dollars reward had been promised for her capture (Maxell). Lesser women or men would have given up and remained in the North. But Harriet Tubman’s uncompromising nature couldn’t let her back away from fear and intimidation. Because of this attitude, she was called the black Moses of her people.
Not only did Harriet have to deal with threat of capture, she also had to deal with threats of slaves cowering and running back to their slave owners. But Tubman answered these threats of retreat with non other than death itself. Armed with a rifle or sometime a pistol, Harriet threatened to kill any slave who didn’t want to complete the journey of escape. They had just two choices when it came to continuing on to freedom: do or die. Harriet believed that the life of one slave was no great sacrifice when it came to the freedom of thousands. She wasn’t going to let any slave return to their masters in order to reveal the great Underground Railroad initiative (Donnelly). Therefore all ex-slaves were now Harriet’s property and under her command. They were to follow her to freedom, without reservation. There were many great women in Harriet’s time, but a woman with her fortitude was very rare.
Not only was her fortitude restricted to the Underground Railroad. Harriet Tubman also assisted the union army. She worked behind confederate lines as a nurse and informed the North of the confederate’s intention. She was also asked by John Brown to help him with the mission of ending slavery in the state of Virginia (Bradford). Many other great people understood that she was feeling enrolled in the cause of freedom and justice. She was fully involved in the execution to abolish slavery and in the mission to secure women’s rights (Maxwell). Harriet’s confidence in God and her ability initiate missions made her a highly recommended character when it came to fighting for the causes of freedom and justice.
Even after the Underground Railroad and the civil war, Harriet Tubman continued on with other personal visions. She started a home orphans and homeless people. She supported this home with the royalties of two published books regarding her life and affairs (Maxwell). The legacy of Harriet Tubman continues to the presence to inspire both women and men alike to fight for the great cost of freedom and justice beyond themselves. On March 10, 2003, George H. Bush signed a document declaring Harriet Tubman DAY.
Annotated Bibliography for Harriet Tubman
(1)Humez, Jean McMahon. Harriet Tubman: the Life and the life Stories. Madison, WI: The
University of Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003
(2)Bradford, Sarah. Harriet Tubman, the Moses of Her People. Retrieved March 25, 2008, from
(3)Clinton, Catherine. Harriet Tubman. Encyclopedia of the Confederacy: 4vols. Simomon &
Schuster. Retrieved March 25, 2008, from http//galenet.gale group.com/servelet/HistRC/
(4)Baggett, Rebecca. Harriet Tubman. Historic World Leaders. Retrieved March 25, 2008, from
(5)Frederick Douglass Letter to Harriet Tubman. (1968, August 29), American Journey Online:
The African American Experience.
(6)Grant Pledged for Harriet Tubman’s Home. (2001, March 10). Albany Times Union
(Albany.NY) Article CJT15751840, PB2
(7)Mark Ex-slave’s Grave, (1937, July 25). ProQuest Historical Newspaper the New York
Times (1851-2004) p32
(8)Donnelly, Matt. Black Moses. Christian History, v18, pg24 (1999) Retrieved March 25, 2008
from http//galenet.gale group.com/servlet/HistRC/
(9)Maxwell, Louise. Harriet Ross Tubman. Encyclopedia of African -American Culture and
History .5vols. Retrieved March 25, 2008 from http//galenet.gale group.com/servlet/HistRC/
(10)Lewis, Jone Johnson. Harriet Tubman Day: March 10. About.com Guide to Women’s
Photograph of Harriet Tubman, reproduced in History Resource Center, Farmington Hills
MI: Gale Group. http://galenet.galegroup.com/serv