WCW: Harriet Tubman
“Have you forgotten that once we were brought here we were robbed of our names, robbed of our language? We lost our religion, our culture, our God, and many of us by the way we act, we’ve even lost our minds.” Khalid Abdul Muhammad Black history isn’t being taught in public schools, which means unless we teach our children, they will have no idea where they have come from. It is now our responsibility to learn these things and pass them down. So, my World Changing Woman this week is Harriet “Moses” Tubman.
Harriet Tubman was born Araminta Ross, exactly when no one can say with complete surety. Tubman was born a slave, and so just like mules, and horses, and other beasts of burdens, no record was kept of her birth. Although Tubman was born into slavery she did not accept her lot in this world; not only would Tubman escape the chains of bondage, she went back at least fourteen times to free others. Her claim to fame she said, “I never lost one soul on my journeys.” Dubbed the “Black Moses,” Tubman along with a group of abolitionists, would free at least 75 slaves from bondage.
To begin the story of Tubman, we must do a abbreviated version of “Roots.” Tubman’s maternal grandmother Modesty came to the United States from Africa via a slave ship. We have no record of the ship’s arrival, we have no name of the ship that brought Modesty to the States, nor do we have any further records of any other ancestors of Tubman. As a child Tubman says she was told she was of Ashanti lineage (modern day Ghana,) sadly there is no evidence to confirm nor deny this assertion. In my research it is said that her mother Harriet (“Rit”) Green had a white father. The probability of this being true is bolstered by the fact that Modesty was a “house negro,” This may also explain why her mother never worked a day in the field. Unfortunately, the same could not be for Harriet or her 8 siblings.
Tubman was often sold out to other families for brief stints. In one instance when she was five or six years old, Brodess hired her out as a nursemaid to a woman named “Miss Susan.” Tubman was ordered to keep watch on the baby as it slept; when it woke and cried, Tubman was whipped. She later recounted a particular day when she was lashed five times before breakfast this would lead to her early resistance; she’s run away for a few days, or wear extra clothing to lessen to effects of the beatings. For these acts of defiance, Tubman would pay dearly.
One day, the adolescent Tubman was sent to a dry-goods store for supplies. There, she encountered a slave owned by another family, who had left the fields without permission. His overseer, furious, demanded that Tubman help restrain the young man. She refused, and as the slave ran away, the overseer threw a two-pound weight at him. He struck Tubman instead, which she said “broke my skull.”
In the fall of 1849, Tubman escaped to Philadelphia, but she wouldn’t stay there for long. Once procuring her safety she would return to rescue family members and friends, a mission that put the lives of those running and her own life in peril. Unlike present day blacks, once Tubman made it she didn’t forget those left behind. Her work with Fredrick Douglas and other abolitionists formed the ‘Underground Railroad.” Moses, would free as many as she could, she worked as a nurse during the Civil War. Even after the abolition of slavery, Tubman then worked with Susan B. Anthony who worked tirelessly for women rights.
In 1903, she donated a parcel of real estate she owned to the church, under the instruction that it be made into a home for “aged and indigent colored people.” Tubman would become dismayed when the church ordered residents to pay a $100 entrance fee. The home was for indigent elderly people. I imagine Tubman who was ill just didn’t have the fight left in her to try and change this. On March 10, 1913 Moses died of pneumonia. Her legacy continued in 1944 the US Maritime launched the SS Harriet Tubman, the first ship named for a black woman.
Photo cred: Library of Congress, Eliza Ann Brodus
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TK’s Bio: Terrence Kyrell Hodge I was born 9/13/79, in what was then W. Berlin Germany, to Qualise and Lieutenant Tyrone Hodge of the United States Marine Corps. He lived in London England and graduated from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor in 2000 with BA in English and Political Science. Terrence writes about any and everything. Terrence is planning a series of novels that are works of “faction” part factual (nonfiction) and partly fictional. He plans to bring a dual vision of American and European observation and opinions to PMA. He will bring blunt honesty with a sense of comedy. He says “I will write wherever I’m needed as I am NOT a one trick pony.”