Pioneering Courage: Harriet Tubman’s Journey to Abolition and Equality
The Heroic Journey of Harriet Tubman
Slavery had left an important role in American history as it started in 1619 when nineteen African Americans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, by Dutch traders. The effect it left on the people and the inequalities they faced their entire lives was an everyday struggle. One of the most popular slaves was Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman was born a slave, therefore leading to having no record of her birth, and no exact date of her birthday is known. She was believed to have been born in 1825 in Dorchester County, Maryland. There was no actual way to determine her age, and adding to it, her death certificate indicates she was born in 1815, and her gravestone in Auburn’s Hill Cemetery says 1820. As she was born a slave in her early childhood, she suffered the hardships she faced on the plantation, as well as having vivid dreams and hallucinations. In her early childhood, she was frail and weak; however, with the work she endured, she became a strong woman. The hard work she faced made her focused and her body stronger. At a young age, she was hired by a man named John Steward to chop wood for the shipbuilding industry in Baltimore.
Challenges of Childhood and Transformation
The challenges she faced led to her escape in 1849, and the history of her deeply religious background and her beliefs helped push her to achieve more and rescue her friends and family as well as others over and over again. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad visitor center tells the life she once lived. It holds the importance of slavery in Maryland with the description of inequalities many faced during their lifetime and the struggles they endured on an everyday basis. The history of Harriet Tubman displays an onlook of her courage that helped free slaves with the challenges she faced, wanting to put an end to slavery. Through exploring the different viewpoints and artifacts, this paper will lay out the history and life of Harriet Tubman. It will also discuss the racial inequalities and difficulties she faced on her journey. Lastly, it will promote the impact this site has today and the importance to Maryland’s history.
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The Underground Railroad and Leadership
Harriet Tubman’s whole family was living a slave life, including her and her four sisters and four brothers. The site focuses on her childhood and the experiences she faced, as well as the movement she created later in her life. At a young age, the plantation became small compared to others around the region, and slaves were extremely important as their way of income. In 1825, Harriet’s three older sisters were sold off the plantation as the farm was starting to struggle financially. Her first job as a slave at the age of five was to watch over and take care of an infant. She would work long hours at night rocking the baby’s cradle to make sure she didn’t cry, and when it was heard by Miss Susan, her mistress, “would whip her around the neck, these were the first scars, and they remained for the rest of her life.” The next job she received at the age of seven was collecting muskrats from traps, which always left her soaked in water and mud from the hip down. Over time, she developed measles and became fatigued and collapsed.
Roughly a year later, she was hired to a different household where she managed to escape for three days, finding shelter in a pigpen and scavenging for scraps of food. The site features information about their childhood and young adulthood, the way of life she lived, and the labor she faced under slavery in Dorchester County. The site features 10,000 square feet of exhibits about her life and explores the Underground Railroad with a self-guided driving tour including 36 sites. Later, she will discuss the site exhibits in the Secrets of the Underground Railroad and her own daring rescue missions. The exhibits emphasize the importance of her family, faith, freedom, community, and actions during the Civil War. The message given to the audience at the site is no matter gender, race, age, or religion, you can make choices that positively impact others in their life regardless of the circumstances.
Legacy and Impact on Equality
Tubman’s life and legacy are shown in the introduction to the guided tours and deeply reflect her work as a leader, liberator, and humanitarian. In 1849, Harriet Tubman started her movement as her owner, Edward Brodess, started to sell slaves in order to cover his debts. As she realized her brothers and her were going to be separated, she started praying, “Oh lord, if you ain’t never going to change than man’s heart, kill him, Lord, and take him out of the way.” With her prayers coming true, Edward died a week later, and this was her way of being ready to escape. She had saved enough money to escape and start a new life, leaving no traces.
On September 17, 1849, she escaped Poplar Neck Plantation, and her brothers changed their minds about leaving and returned to the plantation. Within two weeks, her escape was noticed and published in the Cambridge Democrat, offering a $300 reward for their location. It is told to the audience she took on the role of Frederick Douglass, becoming guided by the North Star and helped by others taking shelter in safe houses. Her journey lasted 90 miles, and “When I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if 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.”
As she crossed the Mason-Dixon line, she entered the North, which was a location for free slaves. Over this time, she managed to get a job working in houses and hotels, making sure to save enough money to return to her family and rescue them. Knowing the risks of getting caught could lead to jail time. She started her first rescue mission in 1850 by retrieving her niece and two children. With the close relationships she made, she was able to form her own network of safe houses. With her next mission to go save her brother, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed and made her journeys more jeopardizing and hazardous. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 made the capture of fugitive slaves to be returned to their owners. Due to the North’s missions to return to the South to save the lives of many, the annual loss of slaves had increased over the years.
With the new act in play, it made the punishment worse for everyone involved in the movement. Under the new law,” alleged runaway slaves were subjected to a jury trial before being sent back to their owners, and local jails were not allowed to be used for fugitive slaves.” It was conceived that all blacks were runaways, which made it extremely difficult for any operation to be conducted and threatened the freedom of fugitive blacks and free men. The ones caught” could be arrested and extradited without a warrant, had no right to a jury and to defend themselves in court.” Many free blacks and fugitives fled to Canada. This act struck hardships that Harriet had to overcome to save and rescue the rest of her family and others.
With this impacting the way Harriet went on her missions, slaves had created Secret code languages. Secret code languages held the meaning of hidden messages only slaves could understand and were used in songs or letters. Singing songs was a part of the slave’s everyday life and became their own tradition and a part of their own culture. Enlisted in the songs and letters would be directions on where to escape and how the job would be done. Harriet Tubman had to plan methods that would ensure the safety of herself and others. She started by only traveling at night and telling them to escape on Saturdays as Sundays were rest days, and the owners wouldn’t come to realize anyone was missing until Monday morning. The way this was ruled led the escapees to gain a head start. Later on, Harriet Tubman started to conduct more and more journeys, gained a reputation as a liberator, and became more recognized.
The impact of the site shows great importance to American History as it briefly breaks down the movement and inequalities that were once the troubles that many lived through. The site shows and explains the leadership Harriet Tubman faced and how her actions led to her becoming a hero to many. She had a positive impact on people, making them think truly about slavery, and she managed to help hundreds of slaves become free at last. Her roles in society “also helped women’s suffrage movement to show that women can, and that has impacted us now to think twice about every woman.” Her actions of being brave and determined to free more and more parents and children made her become the woman we respect her as.
In the year 2020, her face will be displayed on the twenty-dollar bill. As in all of her journies, she put her life on the line as a conductor in the Underground Railroad; she wanted everyone to be free and wasn’t stopping till she put her own end to slavery. Her role leads others to believe that “she is seen as a symbol of how black people resisted slavery during the time before the Civil War.” Her fearless journies were only carried through the start of her life, serving the horrible treatment she faced with living and leaving her family behind. This site has opened the topic that many have hidden from speaking about for many years and the discrimination blacks faced. The lawful system was broken, which led to unequal employment, unequal education, and the horrific events that led to today’s America. Visit the site gives the audience the feel of what was lived to see it in person, and looking at the artifacts preserved, knowing the topic is sadly true and putting that blueprint in our minds.
In conclusion, the actions led by Harriet Tubman made her be seen as a hero, and she became praised for the amount of leadership and determination she possessed. Her actions changed many lives and became an inspiration to many African Americans. Tubman wanted to put an end to slavery and make all humans equal regardless of race or gender. She had fought for the freedom of herself and others, always putting her life at risk. She always watched over the backs of others and wanted to help and treat as many people as she possibly could. She would clothe and educate freed African Americans, supporting them in living a newly freed life. The woman she became was worshipped by many and “was recruited by the Union Army during the Civil war, she acted as a spy, going into Southern towns to gather covert intelligence on the movements of the Confederate Army.” Through her own expeditions, she recovered 300 slaves with the support of the military campaign and helped lead the release of 750 slaves.
Her first-person actions led her to be a highlight in the women’s suffrage movement. Her movements were “the educational efforts made by African American leaders to uplift the race” Du Bois. Pursued the act of free people and the dangerous injustices slaves faced in everyday life. The impact she left on many with her fearless determination embraced the life she lived while fighting for the struggles of racial equality. The difficulties she faced in repeatedly risking her life never stopped her actions, and it matters to American History as she is still recognized by millions today. “When the U.S Treasury Department announced that Harriet Tubman’s image will replace Andrew Jackson on the face of the $20 bill, Google ran more than 2 million searches by people seeking to learn about her.” Having this done would represent her story and the contributions of women in American history. As Tubman would state, – “I never ran my train off the track, and I never lost a passenger.” leading to the point that most conductors can not compare the level of skill she possessed in her job.” She lived her life fighting for social justice and women’s rights till March 10, 1913, being buried with Military Honors.
- “Harriet Tubman.” National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/hatu/index.htm
- “Harriet Tubman Biography.” Biography.com. A&E Television Networks. https://www.biography.com/activist/harriet-tubman
- “The Underground Railroad: Escape from Slavery.” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-resources/spotlight-primary-source/underground-railroad-escape-slavery
- “Harriet Tubman: Escaping Slavery and Leading Others to Freedom.” National Women’s History Museum. https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/harriet-tubman
- “The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.” National Constitution Center. https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/interpretation/article-iv/clauses/755
- “Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom.” African American History Museum. https://nmaahc.si.edu/blog-post/harriet-tubman-road-freedom
- “Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad.” Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/classroom-materials/underground-railroad/harriet-tubman-and-underground-railroad/
- “Harriet Tubman Biography.” History.com. A&E Television Networks. https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/harriet-tubman