In the 1840's and 1850's American abolitionists were a small minority in every part of the country. Harriet Tubman was one of the women who joined the attack on slavery. She stood out from most of the other abolitionists. The evidence that I will present to you shows how she wasnt satisfied merely to be free or even to give speeches against slavery. Harriet Tubman was important to the abolition movement because she put her ideas to action. Harriet was born a slave in Bucktown, Maryland 1.
From the time she was born she was taught to be wary of the white men. Two of her sisters had been sold to a slave trader and she vowed that she would never let that happen to her. 2 From my reading, Harriet Tubman seemed different from most of the other slaves around her. She had a rebellious nature, always getting into trouble. Her parents introduced her to religion, thinking maybe it would crush her rebellious nature. One way to deal with a difficult child was religion.
Ben and Rit [Harriets parents] were regular churchgoers and Harriet learned Bible verses. Her favorite was Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. She also liked the Bible verses about deliverance. If she heard of a fugitive slave on his way north, she thought of the verse Hide the outcast; betray him not that wander eth.
(Bentley p. 16) 3 So, even as a young girl, Harriet was already thinking about deliverance and fugitive slaves going north. She had heard of revolts and rebellions against slavery, and knowing how Harriet was, Im sure she cheered them on. Harriet went to great lengths to protect her fellow slaves. Like every other slave, obviously, she too hated slavery. But I think there was more to slavery than just hate, for Harriet. In one case, she put her life on the line to protect a slave named Jim from getting beaten.
She refused to move when a white supervisor asked her to help him tie up Jim for a whipping. When Ji made a run for it, Harriet blocked the supervisor from chasing after Jim. So, he grabbed a 2 lb. weight and threw it towards Jim. The weight hit Harriet in the forehead instead, and Jim got away.
4 Luckily, Harriet survived her near-death experience. The mark on Harriets forehead remained a visible scar of the brutality of slavery. The wound went deep into her heart. (Bentley p. 24) In 1849, Harriets master, Edward Bro dess died, and she and the rest of the slaves on the plantation were to be sold into a chain-gang.
The risks were high, but Harriets mind was made up, she would run away to the North. There are two things Ive got a right to, and these are death and liberty. One or the other I mean to have. (Tubman p. 39) Harriet escaped from the plantation with her brother. A few hours into the trip Harriets brother got scared of being captured, so Harriet and him had to return. The next night Harriet fled alone into the forest.
She was given food and shelter by many whites and blacks against slavery, along the Underground Railroad. When she finally did reach Philadelphia, the free-land, Harriet said, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person now I was free. There was such a glory over everything... I felt like I was in heaven. (Tubman p. 46) 5 It didnt take long for Harriet to realize that the north wasnt so heavenly after all. Harriet! t commented that Philadelphia was more restrictive to blacks than New England was.
An example of this is, one hot day an ice cream parlor refused to serve her because she was black. 6 Harriet was quickly able to find jobs around the city. She must have been overjoyed with her freedom to quit one job and look for another whenever she wanted to. Since childhood Harriet played an active role in the fight against slavery. Although she could have rested easy and enjoyed her freedom, she continually risked her life to bring her family and friends north.
She would not be happy, she knew, until her people were free. (Bentley p. 48) In other words, I believe Harriet could not be content to enjoy her freedom alone. Harriets first rescue mission was for her family. Harriet asked for the help of a free black man named John Bowled. Harriet told him that if he would bring his wife and kids to Baltimore, she would get them to Canada.
7 And that she did. She brought over 300 slaves to freedom, along the Underground Railroad. Curiously, the exact amount of trips she took back south appear to be different in every book I read. It ranged from 18 to 20 trips.
Think about that... Imagine yourself a fugitive slave, on the run from the law. Would you go back to some place that you had worked so hard to break free from Well, Harriet! did, and was 100% successful. Out of all those trips, not one time did she get caught or lose one of the slaves. One of the books on Harriet said she even carried a gun and threatened to shoot anyone that wanted to turn back.
Yes, there was something more than the hate of slavery that drove Harriet. I believe it was Harriets burning desire to see all her people free. The passion she felt when she gained her own freedom seemed to dull her fears and propel her mission. Many people preach and give speeches about things that they feel are wrong. I know Harriet Tubman believed with her whole heart slavery was wrong. She could have just stood around and complained about it, but instead she did something about it.
In Harriets time slavery was considered politically correct by many, yet Harriet knew, without a doubt, slavery was immoral. Slavery was a sin! Nothing can be politically right that is morally wrong. (Ben Rush, 1786) Anyway you look at it, slavery was just plain wrong. No human being belongs to another.
The blacks may have looked different than everyone else but they were not objects to buy and sell at a white mans disposal. The slaves were not treated as human beings, but as animals, whipped and beaten by their inhumane masters. Slaves were even branded by a hot iron so their owners could keep track of them. 8 Slaves were also used for economic purposes. Many people felt justified in owning slaves because it helped the economy.!
Some even argued that blacks didnt count under the Constitution because they said they were inferior to the white men. They said that blacks had a weird odor and were not as smart as whites. Well, the white men would probably smell weird if they were forced to work under the hot sun, out in fields all day, without getting to shower for days at a time. As for not being as smart... obviously if the blacks were allowed to get an education, they would know just as much as the whites.
No matter what was said, there was no excuse for enslaving another human being. Slavery was morally wrong and Harriet took it upon herself to try and put a stop to it in the best way she knew possible. She went beyond the call of duty to fight for what felt right in her heart. Harriet Tubman was so important to the abolitionist movement not only because she saved many slaves lives, but because of the inspiration and hope she gave to her people. Harriet was even nicknamed Moses by the people she saved. She did what others were too scared to do.
It wasnt guaranteed that Harriet would be successful on every single mission. In my eyes she had a lot to lose if she was caught, but I think to her she felt like at least she had saved some slaves. What sacrifice! Harriet Tubman was more than an ex-slave turned abolitionist. She was also a nurse and a spy for the Union Army. Always one to turn dreams into action, she joined the war effort in 1861.
Harriet was probably the first women, black or white, to go to the battle front. 9 The army used her as a spy, liaison, and a nurse. So even when she wasnt taking groups of slaves up north, she was still helping others. What an incredible woman!
Harriets diligence to do right, and her determination to keep with it until her purpose was fulfilled, still inspires me today. I do admire Martin Luther King, Jr. and many other abolitionists, but not as much as Harriet Tubman. I dont know of any other woman that accomplished as much as she did, in one lifetime. Harriet Tubman truly is the ultimate hero of the abolition movement.