Little Bits of History

Freedom Becomes Her

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 17, 2014
Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman

September 17, 1849: Harriet is free. Araminta Ross was born around March 1822 in Dorchester County, Maryland. Her parents were slaves with her mother owned by Mary Pattison Brodess and her father owned by Anthony Thompson who would later become Mary’s second husband. Slaves births were not a matter of record and the exact date of “Minty’s” birth is unknown. Minty’s grandmother, Modesty, got to the US via a slave ship and during her childhood, Minty was told she was of Ashanti lineage coming from the area of Ghana today. Minty’s mother was the cook for the Brodess family while her father managed timber work on the Thompson plantation. The slaves married and according to court records had nine children together between 1811 and 1832.

As was common among slave families, children could be sold away from the parents. A tale told within the family may have influenced Minty and her daring. Her mother threatened Brodess’s son as he and a Georgia slave buyer approached the house to take a son away. Mama threatened them with death and they left without taking the boy. Minty was left in charge of many of her younger siblings while her mother worked in the big house. Brodess hired her out when she was five or six as a nursemaid to a baby. When the baby woke and cried, Minty was whipped. She carried the scars of these repeated beatings for the rest of her life. While still a child, she was beaten by masters and suffered a severe head wound which induced epileptic seizures, headaches, and visionary disturbances.

Because of her injuries, her value as a slave decreased. Around 1844, Minty married a free black man named John Tubman. Around that time, she also changed her name to Harriet – her mother’s name. The union was complicated because any children born to the couple would be slave, since status was conferred by the mother’s condition. In 1849, Harriet was ill once again and Brodess wanted to sell her but could not find a buyer for such shoddy wares. Harriet was incensed at the conditions she and her family were living under. She and two brothers escaped on this day, just days after Edward Brodess’s death (which made the family’s situation even more precarious).

The three slaves had been hired out to another family and so their runaway status was not immediately recognized by their owner, Eliza Brodess. She offered a $100 reward for each of their captures. The brothers returned and brought their sister with them but Harriet escaped again soon after. She became an advocate for freedom and began sneaking in and out of Maryland, using the Underground Railroad to spirit her family members to freedom. Finally free to choose her own way, she chose freedom for herself and others and worked as an abolitionist and humanitarian. During the Civil War, she worked as a Union spy and a nurse. She died in Auburn, New York in 1913 at the age of 91.

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.

I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land.

I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.

I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves. – all from Harriet Tubman

Also on this day: His Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I – In 1859, Joshua Abraham Norton proclaims himself Emperor of the US.
One Dam Thing – in 1930, construction began on Boulder Dam.
No Fear of Flying – In 1908, Orville Wright crashed his plane.
Animalcules – In 1683, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek wrote to the Royal Society.

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