In the process of gaining her freedom, Harriet Tubman began to metamorphosize into what amounted to a one-woman army. Just as soon as she had escaped to the ‘North’ from the evils of slavery, Harriet turned around and went back to help others. Though she had gone searching for freedom and found it, in her new-found liberty she pressed herself into service to help others reach freedom. With the help of the underground railroad, Harriet led over one thousand people to freedom through her relentless efforts as an abolitionist, scout and armed spy for the U.S. Army.
Every so often, perhaps once every hundred years, a certain dynamic of attributes rests on the shoulders of a human. They become driven to go beyond the norm and their grip on treasuring their own life is placed second to the yearning of doing all they can to bring balance to their environment. Born as a material possession to a slave owner, Mrs. Harriet Tubman was repeatedly whipped and beaten as a child; her life meaning less than nothing to her slave masters. Her parents, being slaves also, were powerless to protect their daughter. Harriet’s life was fixed. Her unpaid, unrewarded toil under the sun is all that she was expected to know and do as a slave. Their was no expectation for her other than to do as she was told and to then die.
That was not enough for Harriet “Minty” Tubman. She decided that she would not go down silently to her grave and resolved to pray to the Lord for her liberty. First she prayed that her slave owner change his heart regarding selling her off and when that was not bearing fruit, she prayed for her slave owners death, who apparently passed away soon their after. Not wanting to wait for the estate sale that would follow after the death of her slave master, Harriet escaped with two of her brothers, Henry and Ben, in September of 1849.
As one nation made up of many different people under one God, the quality of our American ‘fabric’ is strengthened each time one of us leads in service to each other and our community. The opposite is true also. The strength of the ideals and principles which keep our nation free tear and wax old when we look to only improving our own life. In recognizing our interconnectedness, that we rise and fall together, that my brother and sister is every man, woman and child, empathy surges forward and our happiness becomes connected to the happiness of others. Harriet Tubman was a self-made woman at a time when being a woman meant having almost no rights. Harriet Tubman was a self-made, African-American woman at a time when slavery was the most common occupation of other African-Americans. It is as if she transcended her station in life, broke the mold and never looked back. Mrs. Tubman stopped being just a black woman, but had become a woman ‘on fire’ for others. She did so without limelight or fanfare. She kept her shoulder to the plow when no one was telling her to do so and because of her epic heart and epic commitment to the cause of liberty, she single-handedly let freedom ring loud and clear.
Frederick Douglas said of her:
“The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day—you in the night. … The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown—of sacred memory—I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have.”