A History of Harriet Tubman an African-American Abolitionist

I remember the first time I heard about Harriet Tubman and the Under Ground Railroad. I was in the sixth grade and eleven years old. My social studies teacher showed the class a film about the network of people and Harriet Tubman who helped slaves escape to freedom through a passage to the North. She explained how Harriet Tubman who was a runaway slave herself, risked her life to save her family and others who were slaves at the time.

As a child Harriet Tubman was a hero to me. Now that I’m older I realize just how important her story is to everyone and especially women. Harriet was thirty years old when she escaped from slavery. She risked her life to be free and to free others. A white neighbor told her how to find the first house on her path to Canada. At the first house she was put into a wagon covered with a sack and transported to the next stop. She had to wade through swamp water and hide in the woods. Her master knew she had escaped and was looking for her with guns and dogs. She wore the soles out on her shoes from walking in the woods. She was weak from lack of food. She had to trust white people she had never seen or didn’t know. She would get instructions on what to do at each station she stopped in and go from there. The night she escaped she didn’t know exactly what to do or were to go but the Underground Railroad conductors helped her get through the middle passage.

Harriet took three hundred slaves to freedom including all of her family after she found out the way to Canada through the Under Ground Railroad. She risked her life three hundred times so her people could get to the promise land. She was called the Moses of her people. Close to some of her last trips to Canada there was a reward for her arrest. She still made a few more trips to the South to bring out slaves knowing she was wanted. Although Harriet wasn’t allowed an education she was very bright. When her Daddy learned she was going to escape from the plantation he taught her a few survival skills she would need to know to survive in the woods. He taught her that the moon shines on the mossy side of the trees and if she followed the moss that shined from the moon she will always be going north.

African Americans used code words to speak to each other because the masters of the plantations were always watching them. Harriet wanted to let her family know she was going to escape so she went to her sister’s cabin the night before and sung an old African American spiritual through the door. She sang, “Swing low sweet chariot I ain’t got long to stay.” In another song the words go like this, “Walk together children walk together children don’t become weary we’ll get to the promise land. I have shoes you have shoes all God’s children have shoes when you get to heaven gonna put on your shoes and walk all over God’s heaven.” Heaven was a code word for Canada. When she sung about shoes that meant to get ready to escape that night.

What amazed me about Harriet was how she changed her life and other people’s lives for the better. When Harriet reached Canada she said, “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see it I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything. The sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in heaven.”

Maybe Harriet wasn’t the same person spiritually. I’m sure her soul was much lighter and she wanted others to feel the freedom she felt. She wanted to share it with her family but they were not there. I believe Harriet couldn’t rest knowing she was free but her family and friends were still in bondage and it bothered her deeply.

Other conductors could not believe Harriet when she told them she wanted to go back to the south to get her family and friends to bring them through the North passage. Even though they were afraid for Harriet and knew she was taking a chance with her life they admired her courage, bravery and made her a conductor of the Underground Railroad. Harriet led three hundred people to freedom and was the most well known conductor for the Railroad. She said, “I never ran my train off track, and I never lost a passenger.”

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