Remembering Harriet Tubman, the Woman Called Moses
Araminta Ross was born a slave somewhere around 1820 in Maryland. One of vastly too many. Her life, as was the norm for the enslaved, was brutal. At one time when one of her owners threw a heavy weight at another slave while she tried to intervene, she was accidentally hit. She would suffer spells of dizziness and pain for the rest of her life.
While it was illegal she married John Tubman, a free man in 1844, taking his family name. She also gave herself a first name, something uncontaminated by the slavers. She called herself Harriet Tubman.
And then something happened.
In 1849, on the 17th of September, Harriet escaped to freedom.
It is not possible at this distance to fathom the danger involved. Anyone who attempted to flee bondage deserves to be remembered for their courage. Actually Harriet’s husband was too afraid to flee himself. And I don’t believe it is possible to condemn someone for that. The danger, the consequences in being caught was unspeakable.
People can dream of what they’d do. Most of us are heroes in our imaginations. What makes us remember Harriet Tubman, however, is what she did after that first astonishing act of claiming her body for herself. After securing her own freedom, she returned, gathered up her family, and the led them to freedom, as well.
Harriet Tubman would eventually lead some thirteen bands of escaped slaves out of bondage.
The scholar Robert Gudmestad writes “Tubman’s Christian faith tied all of these remarkable achievements together. She grew up during the Second Great Awaken ing which was a Protestant religious revival in the United States. Preachers took the gospel of evangelical Christianity from place to place, and church membership flourished. Christians at this time believed that they needed to reform America in order to usher in Christ’s second coming.
“A number of black female preachers preached the message of revival and sanctification on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Jarena Lee was the first authorized female preacher in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. It is not clear if Tubman attended any of Lee’s camp meetings, but she was inspired by the evangelist. She came to understand that women could hold religious authority.
“Historian Kate Clifford Larson believes that Tubman drew from a variety of Christian denominations, including the African Methodist Episcopal, Baptist and Catholic beliefs. Like many enslaved people, her belief system fused Christian and African beliefs.
“Her belief that there was no separation between the physical and spiritual worlds was a direct result of African religious practices. Tubman literally believed that she moved between a physical existence and a spiritual experience where she sometimes flew over the land. An enslaved person who trusted Tubman to help him escape simply noted that Tubman had “de charm,” or God’s protection.”
In the run up to the Civil War Tubman assisted John Brown in preparing for his raid on Harper’s Ferry. During the war she worked as a cook, as a nurse, and eventually as an armed scout and spy. Harriet Tubman is counted as the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war when she led the raid on Combahee Ferry, freeing a hundred slaves.
When the war ended, Tubman retired to her home in Auburn, New York, where she focused on caring for her elderly parents. She married a Civil War veteran, Nelson Davis.
Unable to just rest on her laurels, Harriet Tubman soon turned to women’s suffrage, which she labored for until old age and illness overtook her.
Eventually he received a small pension as the widow of a veteran, and later another in recognition of her own astonishing work.
Harriet Tubman, the woman called Moses, died on this day, the 10th of March, in 1913. Tubman was buried with military honors.
She an American hero, well deserving of replacing one of our more problematic presidents on our currency, as was planned before Donald Trump assumed the presidency. I believe it is simply a matter of time before this is corrected.