“I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.”
Every situation has two options; stay still and endure till fate can deal no more or brace up, fight, with everything you’ve got. Evidently, our response, at that very moment, ultimately defines who we are.
Former slave turned leading abolitionist, Harriet Tubman was born Araminta Harriet Ross, one of nine children to enslaved parents between 1820 and 1825 in Dorchester County, Maryland.
Her world was tough; right from childhood she had began going through physical and emotional torture. Rented out as a nursemaid at age 5 and being whipped when the baby cried. It went way deeper than visible scars. At age 12, she already had a strong sense of self and selflessness, – she hated injustice and even at that age didn’t hesitate to shield another, Harriet bore the brunt after instinctively stepping in when an overseer was about to throw a two-pound weight at a fugitive slave—the weight struck her head, her skull was broken. But that was just the beginning of her trauma, the effect left her with resulting headaches and narcolepsy till her death.
In 1840, Harriet’s father was set free and although her mother with her children had been set free by former owner, her mother’s new owner refused to recognise and honour the will, keeping them in bondage.
Around 1844, Harriet married John Tubman, a free Black man, thus changed her last name from Ross to Tubman. On September 17, 1849, Harriet, and her brothers escaped their Maryland plantation but they however, changed their minds and went back. With the help of the Underground Railroad, Harriet persevered and traveled 90 miles north to Pennsylvania. Freedom at long last!
Tubman would later find work as a housekeeper in Philadelphia, but still, she craved freedom for her loved ones and friends, too. She risked her life to free other slaves from the plantation system – at least 70 enslaved people were set free, including her elderly parents.
Tubman is also credited for helping the Union Army during the war, working as a spy among other roles.
After the Civil War ended, she worked tirelessly helping impoverished former slaves and the elderly.
In 1868, she wedded for the second time when she tied the knot with former enslaved man and Civil War veteran Nelson Davis, the pair adopted a daughter, Gertie Davis. Her first husband John had died 1867 – their marriage had been troubled.
March 10, 1913, Harriet Tubman died aged 93 after suffering from Pneumonia.
Harriet’s legacy lives on, books, movies and documentaries recount her bravery and selflessness. Tubman had a World War II Liberty ship named after her, the SS Harriet Tubman and in 2016, the United States Treasury announced that Harriet’s image will replace that of former President and slave owner Andrew Jackson on the twenty-dollar bill.
Image Credit: biographythebiography