Harriet Tubman: What Did She Do?

The title for this post comes from a question posed to a Twitter follower concerning plans to put Ms. Tubman on a US $20 bill. This post is an answer to that question.
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery around 1820. As a result she witnessed many acts of brutality committed against the slaves. In one such incident they were told to tie up a slave for a whipping, something Tubman refused to do. When the slave ran away, the master threw a 2 lb. weight at the slave, which hit Tubman in the head, nearly killing her. Though she lived, she suffered the effects of the injury the rest of her life.
After her master died, rumor spread that they were to be sold to the Deep South. It was at this time Tubman decided to escape. Upon reaching the North, she resolved to return South to rescue her people. So she got work as a cook for families and hotels and saved her earnings for money to return to the South to lead bands of slaves to freedom.
She made many trips south to rescue slaves, “scaling mountains, fording rivers, threading forests.” She carried the babies(given opium to prevent crying) in a basket on her arm. When people wearied and wanted to return, she pointed her revolver at them and said, “Dead n******s tell no tales; you go or you die!” (Sarah Bradford, Harriet, The Moses of Her People, p. 33)
Tubman was a woman of deep faith. Her biographer Sarah Bradford observed that, in contrast to those who prayed in the morning and evening, Tubman prayed throughout the day. Thomas Garrett, a Quaker working on the Underground Railroad, commented, “I have never met any person, of any color, who had more confidence in the voice of God, and He talked with her every day of her life, and she declared to me that she felt no more fear of being arrested by her former master, or any other person, when in his immediate neighborhood, for she ventured only where God sent her, and her faith in the Supreme Power was truly great.” (Bradford, pp. 83-84) In one example, Tubman took a different route than usual, due to what she believed to be Divine guidance. Later she heard that flyers had been put up where they had just left.
When the Civil War broke out, she accepted the request from the Union to help with the war effort and worked as a nurse and spy. “She sacrificed everything, left her nearest and dearest, and risked her life in the cause of the Union, without one cent of recompense.”
Secretary of State William H. Seward said, “The cause of freedom owes her much; the country owes her much.” Bradford comments, “Yet the country was not willing to pay her anything. Mr. Seward’s efforts, seconded by other distinguished men, to get a pension for her, were sneered at in Congress as absurd and quixotic.” (Bradford, pp. 77-78)
To sum up, what did Harriet Tubman do? She led 300 men, women, and children to freedom. It is believed that, despite a $40,000 bounty on her(at least $900,000 in 2016), all in her charge made it to freedom. She rendered invaluable service to the Union during the Civil War, despite received nothing for her service. In addition she looked after elderly and disabled people of color and opened her home to the hunted and homeless.
I consider Tubman an excellent role model for today’s young people and her place on our currency the least the government can do.


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Christian, freethinker, believer, skeptic, seeker.

One thought on “Harriet Tubman: What Did She Do?”

  1. Would it be OK if I cross-posted this article to WriterBeat.com? There is no fee; I’m simply trying to add more content di5versity for our community and thought this was insightful. I’ll be sure to give you complete credit as the author. If “OK” please let me know via email.



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