Heroes of the Faith: Harriet Tubman (1820-1913)
“I was a stranger in a strange land . . .”
Have you ever fought a battle, or contended for a matter, which seemed too large to overcome? Did you feel that you were alone in the midst of the morass? What kept you tethered at the throttle, persevering and enduring? No doubt, it was the conviction that the cause was commensurate for the combat. There are many “heroes” in American history who have personified this paradigm; yet one stands out uniquely--Harriet Tubman. Considered by many to be the third most famous American in history (behind Betsy Ross and Paul Revere), she has unfortunately been partially mythologized. Behind the anecdotal accolades lived a lady whose Christian convictions compelled and captivated her. Perhaps her most lasting memoir was her sobriquet--”Moses.”
History--Harriet Tubman’s “Everyday” Life
Born Araminta “Minty” Harriet Ross, Harriet’s parents were property of opposing Maryland plantation overlord masters. Her childhood was marred by indeterminate lashings from innumerable lords. In particular, she was the victim of the inadvertent beaning of an iron weight, thrown by an outraged overseer at another escaping slave, resulting in lifelong seizures, neuralgia, and sleeping episodes. “Minty” married freeman John Tubman at age 24, and assumed “Harriet,” probably as a tribute to her mother. She escaped captivity at age 29, eluded her captors, and emigrated from Confederate territory to Philadelphia. Her new life mission (mostly successful) was to return to Maryland, and rescue her family piecemeal. Her foremost celebrated distinction, however, was her work with the Underground Railroad, a clandestine network of covert courses and safe shelters for fugitive slaves.
Heritage--Harriet Tubman’s Earthly Labors
By most accounts, Harriet was a devout Christian, an adherent of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Her design of rescuing family members and others in bondage was nothing short of valiant and virtuous, at the cost of her own safety and health. Her quest to manumit stealthily and migrate speedily those enslaved, to the North or Canada, was particularly targeted toward her fellow women. Later in life, she became a proactive proponent of the Suffragette Movement. She died at age 93, of pneumonia, in Auburn, New York.
Horizons--Harriet Tubman’s Enduring Legacy
Mrs. Tubman once remarked, “I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years . . . I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.” Although illiterate, she deciphered the conditions of American mystery (apartheid), and articulated her place into the course of American history (autonomy). Her record as an intrepid emancipator was impeccable and evidential. She also reflected, “I had crossed de line of which I had so long been dreaming. I was free; but dere was no one to welcome me to de land of freedom, I was a stranger in a strange land. . . .” Surrounded by fellow humans, she still felt so solitary, so sequestered. Harriet Tubman personified the picture in Hebrews 11:13--”They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” As we confront the cultural conflicts, do we consider the conviction of our heavenly citizenship?
Recommended Resources For Further Focus:
Jackson, Dave and Neta. Trailblazers: Featuring Harriet Tubman and Other Christian Heroes (Trailblazer Books). Bethany House Publishers, 2009.
Larson, Kate Clifford. Bound For the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman - Portrait of an American Hero. Ballantine Books, 2004.