Faithful Heroes: Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman became known as the Moses of the Underground Railroad. She relied on her faith to lead the slaves to freedom through a tumultuous time.
But, who was Harriet Tubman?

She was born on January 29, 1822 {based on midwife payments} in Dorchester County, Maryland, into slavery. Her parents, Harriet “Rit” Green and Ben Ross named their daughter Araminta “Minty” Ross. Minty was one of nine children born to her parents and often cared for her younger siblings while her mother was busy working in the “big house”. When her mother was home she told her children stories from the Bible.
A head injury, due to abuse by her owners or others she was loaned out to, led to a lifetime of headaches, seizures, powerful visions, and dream experiences.

In 1840, her father became free due to a former owner’s land, stating his freedom when he turned 45 {although he was about a decade older}. The fight then began for her mother and siblings freedom, which their current owners refused to acknowledge.
In 1844, Minty married John Tubman, a free black man. Shortly after her marriage, she changed her name, adopting her mother’s name of Harriet.

In 1849, she became ill and her owner was angered when he was unable to sell him. Harriet began to pray God would change his ways. She said later: “I prayed all night long for my master till the first of March, and all the time he was bringing people to look at me, and trying to sell me.” When it appeared as though a sale was being concluded, “I changed my prayer,” she said. “First of March, I began to pray, ‘Oh Lord, if you ain’t never going to change that man’s heart, kill him, Lord, and take him out of the way.'”
A week later her owner died.
She and two of her brothers escaped from slavery on September 17, 1849, while her owner’s widow worked to sell her and her family. Her brothers had second thoughts and the trio returned, but Harriet escaped a second time. She used the Underground Railroad to aid her escape.
Once in freedom, she worked and saved money, and began to assist various family members toward freedom, as the opportunity presented itself.
When she returned for her husband in the fall of 1851, she discovered he’d remarried and did not want to leave stating “I am happy where I am.”
At some point, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison named her Moses, because of her secret missions to guide slaves to freedom. She is said to have sung a version of “Go Down, Moses” to signal the path to freedom.

She referred to her visions as “divine premonitions” and “consulting with God” to aid her in her repeated expeditions to free other slaves.
“Thomas Garrett once said of her, “I never met with any person of any color who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken directly to her soul.” Her faith in the divine also provided immediate assistance. She used spirituals as coded messages, warning fellow travelers of danger or to signal a clear path.”
One of her last missions was to lead her parents to safety. She ran her last mission in November 1860.
Throughout the Civil War, she served as a nurse to aid soldiers at Port Royal.
She spent her later years at her home in Auburn, New York “tending to her family and other people in need.” She took in boarders and worked various jobs to make ends meet.
On March 18, 1869, she married bricklayer Nelson Charles Davis. They adopted a baby girl, Gertie, in 1874. Davis died of tuberculosis on October 14, 1888.

In 1898, she petitioned the government for a pension for her service as a nurse during the Civil War. After fighting for her pension, she eventually received it.
In her later years, she worked to promote the cause of women’s suffrage, traveling around the North East to speak on the cause.
In 1903, she donated a parcel of land for “age and indigent colored people”. The Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged opened on June 23, 1908. In 1911, she entered the home named for her.
She died on March 10, 1913, in her early 90s of pneumonia. Just before she died, she told those in the room: “I go to prepare a place for you.”
She is buried at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, New York and was buried with semi-military honors.
A commemorative plaque on the courthouse in Auburn was dedicated to her in 1914.
If traveling to Maryland, take time to check out the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center.
Without her faith in God and seeking His assistance, she would have never been able to lead so many to freedom.

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