Harriet Tubman’s mother threatened to split the head of her owner if he took her son
by Marie Seva
Harriet Tubman once used a newspaper and pretended to read it to aid her in one of her escape journeys. This was just one of many things this great woman accomplished during her remarkable life. Below are a few more facts about this brave and strong-willed little woman:
1.) Harriet Tubman was born as Araminta Ross in Maryland. Her parents, Harriet Green and Ben Ross, were both slaves of two different owners, Mary Brodess and Anthony Thompson, who eventually married. Tubman had eight siblings, three of whom were sold to other owners. Tubman listed her birth year in the Civil War widow’s pension records as 1820, 1822 and 1825, indicating her uncertainty, as records during that time did not bear the dates and places of birth of many slaves.
2.) As three of her sisters were sold, when Brodess planned on selling her youngest brother, her mother hid him for a month. And when the buyer came, her mother said, ”the first man that comes into my house, I will split his head open.” The transaction never took place. This incident is believed to have inspired her with ideas about resistance.
3.) As an adolescent, Harriet encountered a slave who was escaping from work in the fields. The overseer asked her to help hold him back but she refused. The overseer turned to Tubman instead and hit her on the head which she said, “broke my skull.” It left her unconscious and bleeding. She believed that her hair may have kept her alive as it “stood out like a bushel basket,” since her hair “had never been combed.” After two days of being laid on a loom seat, she was sent to the fields where she worked, as she described it, “with blood and sweat rolling down my face until I couldn’t see.” Her head injuries began not only a constant pain but also visions which she believed to be signs and premonitions from the Lord. These visions complemented and strengthened her belief that her rescue efforts would be successful. Of her zeal in the faith, Thomas Garrett said, “ I never met with any person of any color who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken direct to her soul.”
4.) Harriet’s father was supposed to have been manumitted (set free) at the age of 45 according to his owner’s will. Tubman paid five dollars to a white lawyer to find out her mother’s status. She learned that her mother, as well as, all her mother’s children, were to be manumitted at age 45. However, their subsequent owners, the descendants of their original owners, refused to acknowledge and grant their manumission. Unfortunately, Tubman and her family did not have the means to fight for their legal right to freedom.
5.) When she fell ill once again, her owner decided to sell her. She prayed fervently for him to change his mind. When the sale was nearly coming to a close, she changed her prayer, “Oh Lord, if you ain’t never going to change that man’s heart, kill him, Lord, and take him out of the way.” After a week, Brodess did pass away. Tubman regretted having had such a sentiment.
6.) When Tubman escaped, together with two of her brothers, Eliza Brodess, their owner, published a notice in the Cambridge Democrat newspaper, expressing that a reward of $100 for each of them (a total of $300) will be granted for their capture. They were never captured
7.) To escape, Tubman traveled almost 90 miles from Maryland to Pennsylvania, by foot, avoiding the slave catchers, trekking the path only at night, and using the North Star as her only guide.
8.) As her seizures and pains increased, bringing about her inability to sleep, she decided to have a brain surgery in 1890. She said they, “sawed open my skull and raised it up and now it feels more comfortable.” This, however, she underwent without any anesthetic, because she preferred to bite on a bullet instead, as she witnessed soldiers do during the Civil War when they had to go through amputation.
9.) Apart from “Minty,” Tubman was also addressed as “Moses,” with reference to the prophet in the Bible who had delivered the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt. Because of her efforts to free fellow slaves at the time, she traveled back and forth to Maryland about 13 times, which took some 11 years, to liberate about 70 people. She also provided guided instructions to some other 60 people to help them in their own journey towards freedom. When she died of pneumonia in 1913, her thoughts were still for the people. Her last words were, “I go to prepare a place for you.”
10.) Because of the legacy she left and great contribution she had on the lives of many, Tubman has been honored in many ways. Among them are:
a) A stamp was issued by the U.S. Postal Service in honor of Tubman in 1978;
b) An asteroid was named after Harriet Tubman in 2010;
c) In Tubman’s honor, she was included in a Google Doodle on the First Day of Black History
month in February 2014;
d) The first Liberty ship named after a black woman, was the SS Harriet Tubman, named after Tubman. It was launched by the U.S. Maritime Commission in 1944; and
e) Tubman is included in the list of 100 Greatest African Americans, created by the scholar,
Molefi Asante in 2002.
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