Our history contains a lot of personalities who made significant contributions in our society. We enjoy our rights to live a free life and do what we can within the boundaries of the law. Imagine what will happen to us if these people did not dare to risk their lives in making a stand for our freedom? I was inspired by the story of a woman who made a very remarkable influence in the History of America. Despite the fact that she lived more than a century ago, her name still echoes and perhaps would continue to echo in the hearts of the people whose ancestors she had salvaged from bondage.
She was often referred to as the “Black Moses” (Bradford, 2004) because she delivered her people out of slavery just like the biblical hero, Moses. She was one of the reasons why the Black Americans today enjoy equal privileges and freedom just like the White Americans. They now have the right to vote and be elected. They could go to school and enjoy equal job opportunities. They could now live life without any discrimination. Above all, they are now treated like any human beings with their rights protected by the law. This article includes a biography of this courageous woman who actively supported the abolition of slavery in the South.
I have chosen her because her patriotism and desire for freedom from oppression could give important lessons to the youth of today. Harriet Tubman is woman who could be an inspiration to everyone. Harriet Tubman There was no exact date when Harriet Tubman was born because the birth of the slaves during her time was not recorded. Some books claimed that she was born around 1821 while others 1822 (Mosher, 1996, p. 6). This can be due to the fact that she belonged to a family of slaves in a plantation in Dorchester County in Maryland. Her real name was Araminta Ross and her sobriquet was Minty.
She was given an adult name the same as her mother’s – Harriet – when she was already 13 years old (McLoone, 1997, p. 7). She was the fifth child of Harriet Green and Benjamin Ross out of their nine children. Her father, Benjamin was owned by Dr. Anthony Thompson, who was the second husband of the owner of her mother. Her father was a good woodsman and he worked in the plantation of Dr. Thompson. Her mother, Harriet, was owned by Mary Pattison Brodess and later passed to Edward Brodess. Her mother was very protective of her children.
However, no matter how she protected her children and kept their family strong, they were still separated by the whip of slavery. Two of her daughters were sold by their master and were never seen again. As a matter of fact, her youngest son was also bound to be sold if she had not taken bold action to threaten her master (Humez, 2006, p. 13). During 1800’s, the century when they lived, there were no universal laws to protect human rights. They were considered as a property of the white people in the United States. Their lives depended on the whims and inheritance of the white people.
Her ancestors came from the wilderness of Africa where the latter previously lived with freedom thriving on the abundance of green pastures and the resources on the land until explorers from the West discovered their dwelling place and took advantage of their primitive culture and inadequate knowledge. They chained thousands of African aborigines and shipped them to the West to be sold as slaves. They served as workers on fields of plantation owners who benefited a lot from these slaves since having more slaves would mean more workers to help them produce more products.
Since these slaves did not receive any wages, the plantation owners got so wealthy. However, instead of taking good care of the slaves who helped them amass more wealth and live a comfortable life, these slave owners became greedy and abusive (Buell, 2004, pp. 4-16). They subjected their slaves to work long hours in the field with little food and rest. They were not given any compensation nor are they treated fairly. There are no laws to protect their rights to live a normal life as humans (Mosher, 1996, p. 6). They were bought and sold like any typical commodity and they are even a part of the inheritance.
Even the parent slaves did not have any hold of their children. Everything always remained in the hands of their master. The slaves and its children were bound to be slaves forever. They were even encouraged to proliferate so that their master will have more slaves. The more offspring the slaves would produce would mean more workers to toil the land and more slaves to be sold. . Because of the brutal treatment, a lot of slaves died (Buell, 2004, pp. 4-16). Since she belonged to a typical family of slaves, Harriet Tubman experienced this inhumane treatment even at an early age.
She had suffered a lot of physical abuse and forced labor while she was young. As a matter of fact, she was forced to do domestic chores in the house at the age of six while taking care of her younger siblings. She was not allowed to have ample time to rest that a growing child should have neither enough nutritious food to supplement her growing body. Even if they suffer from illness, they were not given proper medication. There was no child rights’ policy at that time to protect her from these kinds of abuse. Even if there is, slaves were not considered part of it.
There was an instance that she was beaten so hard because she failed to do a particular task that left deep scars in her frail body. She was also left starving. She made several attempts to run away even in her younger days because of too much abuse. However, hunger compelled her to go back to her ruthless masters and bore the long hours of work just for a morsel of food. Unlike any other kids of her age who go to school, Harriet Tubman did not have any formal schooling. She simply learned using the old school story-telling techniques her family had acquired from their ancestors way back in Africa.
She acquired her knowledge through the hardship that her family had to bear working in the field. She learned through the beating of her masters. She learned the bitterness of life being slave with no hope for a better life. This helped a lot in developing her young mind to seek freedom from slavery. Her experience molded her into a determined person ready to die in the name of freedom (Humez, 2006, pp. 133-134). As a young child who was born to become a slave, Harriet Tubman was not like everyone else. She had the determination and passion to help her fellow slaves.
She is always courageous and she was not afraid of pain or death. There was an instance when she almost died when a very hard and heavy object thrown by a slave master hit her skull for trying to protect a slave trying to escape from the former. This head injury gave Tubman deep scars and dizzy spells that lasted throughout her lifetime. It was probably the reason why she got vision and hallucination and probably the reason for her untimely somnolence. The worst part of it was, the head injury that Tubman had endured did not spare her from work. There was no medical intervention to treat the injury.
After her miraculous recovery, she was compelled to go back to work. This incident ignited a conflagration in her heart to fight for the freedom of their race (McLoone, 1997, p. 9). Despite the turmoil and oppression that they were suffering, one of the remarkable traits of Harriet Tubman and her family was their deep faith in God – the same God that their cruel masters worship. They never doubted God’s existence. They believed that God saw their sufferings and He will not leave them. They believed that God will someday help them attain the freedom that they were longing for.
This deep faith in God greatly influenced and strengthened the character of Harriet Tubman as she grew into adulthood and as she continued her mission to help her kin escape slavery (Humez, 2006, p. 14). It was year 1844, at the age of 24 when Harriet Tubman married a slave who got free when his master died. His name was John Tubman. This made her situation quite complicated because her husband was a free man while she was not. That was probably one of the reasons why her husband did not support her when she proposed that they move to the north. They did not have any children (McLoone, 1997, p.
11). Despite her husband’s lack of support, Hariet Tubman did not lose hope and continued her plan. She planned to escape first with her brothers but they got scared and went back. After that failed evasion, she decided to escape alone and sought the help of a wattle of trustworthy people who guided her (McLoone, 1997, p. 11). This was a network of people who supports antislavery which was also known as the “Underground Railroad” (Shone, & Ganeri, 2005, p. 5). It was consisted of a series of station going north and a conductor who guided and concealed the absconding slaves.
They helped a lot in leading the slaves to the North where slavery was already abolished without getting caught by the spies of the slave masters (McLoone, 1997, p. 5). It was in 1849 when she finally got free (McLoone, 1997, p. 11). However, her freedom in another state did not stop Harriet Tubman. She did not forget the hardship of her kin. She was not self-centered. She had wanted to help in the advocacy of the abolitionist to free the slaves from the South. That was the reason why she risked even her own life in going back to Maryland to help other slaves including her family to escape the wrath of slavery.
She acted as a conductor to deliver hundreds of slaves towards the north where they would no longer be oppressed. Their concealed peregrination, however, became very perilous because of the “Fugitive Slave Act of the 1850” (Shone & Ganeri, 2005, p. 5). This law penalized not only the absconding slaves but also their supporters with the fines and imprisonment that await them the moment they are caught helping these slaves. On top of that, the slave masters offered high monetary reward to whoever would find their truant. Harriet Tubman did not mind the risks of helping her people.
She went back and forth to Maryland to encourage the slaves in the south to escape. She inspired the heart of the oppressed Southern African-American to aspire for freedom. She was able to deliver hundreds of slaves out of slavery (Mosher, 1996, p. 5. ). It was in year 1861 when eleven of the Southern States formed their own confederation to preserve slavery in their state, as well as protect the welfare of its wealthy white citizens. Since they did not collaborate with the Union of the other States to abolish slavery, the American civil war began that lasted for four years (Foner et.
al. , 1991, p. 210). Harriet Tubman had a great participation in this American Civil War. She supported the Union party and served as a cook and a nurse to the wounded. She met several famous people who believed that slavery should soon be abolished. She also helped in the defeat of the Confederate – a group of Southern states who did not want to abolish slavery. On the process, she ushered the armies in the Combahee River to set thousand of slaves free. She also acted as an emissary during the war against the Confederates.
Throughout the ordeal, she also got the chance to work with famous personalities like Frederic Douglas and Harpers Ferry, who also support the abolition of slavery (Humez, 2006, pp. 46 – 50). After the war, she retired to her new abode in Auburn, New York where she lavished their freedom but lived a meager life. It was accounted that she got married again to Civil War veteran named Nelson Davis and simply adopted and raised a baby girl named Gertie (Humez, 2006, p. 86). Tubman also supported the advocacy of women suffrage. She met several famous advocates and helped them in fighting for the right of women to vote.
Some of the famous supporters who worked with Tubman were Susan Anthony and Emily Howland (Milton, 2007, p. 132-133). She also founded a shelter for the aged where she stayed until she died of pneumonia on March 10, 1913 (Humez, 2006, p. 117) leaving an unforgettable legacy to the African – American today – their right to live with freedom. Evaluation It was evident that Harriet Tubman was a historical figure. She made a great contribution in the freedom of the slaves. Without her persistent support and ordeal to help almost a hundred of slaves to escape, they might still be in bondage until this time.
She was considered a saint. Without her burning passion to awaken the minds of her people to fight for them as well as her continued support in the army of the Union to fight the Confederate states, slavery might not be abolished. Her name was already sculpted in the foundation of freedom of the Blacks in the United States. Harriet Tubman’s name is not only included in the history of the Black Americans. She was also a famous supporter of women suffrage. She contributed inspiring words and zeal to promote equality among the rights of men and women.
Her zeal, persistence and selfless acts and simple living proved her sincerity to serve her people. Does History make the woman or does the individual make history? I would agree to the statement that through history, an individual and his or her works are immortalized forever. Being a part of the history could make an individual famous across generation because we are who we are today because of the people in the past. So if you did something significant in the past, there is a higher probability that you will be remembered in the present. However, history could not make an individual remembered if the latter did not do anything.
I could say that history is simply a diary of people to list down the events that happened in the present that will be a past in the next day so that it will not be forgotten in the future. Thus, we are the ones who made the history. Whatever we do today will be the history of the future generations. Whatever mistakes or heroism that we do today will greatly influence the lives of the incoming generation. The significance and influence of our actions throughout our lifetime and how we affected the culture and even the world that we live in is the key factor to be remembered well in history.
In the said example, if Harriet Tubman did not have the courage and determination to brave the night to help hundreds of slaves become free, will she be remembered? There are hundreds and even thousands of slaves in the South but only Tubman and a few others were remembered up until this time because their bravery changed the lives of many people during their time up to this day when African Americans now enjoy freedom and equal right that the White Americans enjoy.
She made history list down her name because of her heroism. References Bradford, S. H. (2004). Harriet The Moses Of Her People. Montana: Kessinger Publishing. Buell, T. (2004). Slavery in America: A Primary Source History of the Intolerable Practice of Slavery. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group. Foner, E. , Garraty, J. A. , & Society of American Historians. (1991). The Reader’s companion to American history. Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Humez, J. M. (2006). Harriet Tubman: the life and the life stories.
Wisconsin:University of Wisconsin Press. McLoone, M. (1997). Harriet Tubman: A Photo-Illustrated Biography. Minnesota: Capstone Press. Milton , C. S. (2007). Harriet Tubman: myth, memory, and history. North Carolina:Duke University Press. Mosher, K. (1996). Learning about Bravery from the Life of Harriet Tubman. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group. Shone, R. , & Ganeri, A. (2005). Harriet Tubman: the life of an African-American abolitionist. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group.