Harriet Tubman

 

 

 

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  Inge Ruth Hardison is the creator of the sculpted portrait of Harriet Tubman... 
 
Harriet Tubman was born somewhere around 1820 into slavery on a plantation on Maryland's Eastern Shore (Dorchester County). Her ancestors had been brought to America in shackles from Africa during the first half of the 18th Century. Because of her deprived upbringing the exact date of her birth is unknown and different accounts list 1820 or 1821. Additionally, she was denied the opportunity for education and was illiterate her entire life. Her original name was Araminta, but she was calling herself Harriet by adulthood. From an early age she was working as a field hand, plowing and hauling wood. At the age of thirteen, while defending a fellow slave who tried to run away, her overseer struck her in the head with a two pound weight. This resulted in recurrent sleepy spells that plagued her the rest of her life. In 1844, her master forced her to marry John Tubman, a fellow slave who proved unfaithful to her.

The Biblical story of Exodus in which Moses freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom in Israel, saw repetition in the years before the Civil War when Harriet Tubman freed over 300 blacks from slavery in the South to freedom in the North. For her commendable work she herself was nicknamed "Moses."

Despite the hardships inflicted upon her and the unfairness of them, Harriet used her labors for self discipline and set for herself the goal of escaping to the North. She accomplished this goal in 1849, when alone and on foot she ran away from the plantation in the middle of the night and followed the north star to free land in Pennsylvania. In the process she left behind her husband and regretfully, her entire family. Harriet had bravely won her freedom and made a vow that she would help her family win their freedom as well. She went to Philadelphia and became involved with with organizers of the Underground Railroad, a secret network through which slaves were aided in escaping from bondage in the South to freedom in the North and Canada, begun by the Abolitionist (antislavery) movement.

Using the Wilmington, Delaware home of Quaker abolitionist Thomas Garrett (1789-1871) as a checkpoint, Harriet Tubman undertook some 20 hazardous missions in which she covertly journeyed down south, pinpointed slaves, and led them to freedom up north, at times going as far as Canada. In leading these flights she warned her escapees that if any of them even considered surrendering or returning the penalty would be death. Her persuasiveness was evident in that never on any of her missions did she lose a "passenger" on the Underground Railroad.  In addition to her nickname "Moses," for her bravery Harriet was dubbed "General" Tubman by the militant abolitionist John Brown, with whom she worked in Canada.  This all angered the South, who put a price on her head of $40,000, but Harriet would not quit, even when her illiteracy nearly got her caught when she fell asleep under her own wanted poster.  As for her family, Harriet successfully rescued her sister in 1850, her brother in 1851, her other three brothers in 1854, and her parents in 1857.  For her parents she purchased a home in Auburn, New York from Senator William H. Seward of New York, an advocate of hers.  In the twelve years from her escape in 1849 to the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad became the most dominant force of Abolitionism.

During the Civil War (1861-1865), Harriet Tubman served with the Union Army as a cook, laundress, nurse, scout, and spy behind Confederate lines--something she was definitely an expert at. After the war she settled in Auburn and in 1869 she married Nelson Davis, a Union veteran half her age. He died of tuberculosis in 1888. Harriet continued to devote herself to the plight of her people, who were now free throughout the nation. She founded the Harriet Tubman Home for indigent aged blacks and lobbied for educational opportunities for freedmen. Working with the writer Sarah Hopkins Bradford her life story was first told in the book Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman in 1869, which was revised in the book Harriet Tubman: the Moses of Her People in 1886. Living past ninety, Harriet Tubman died in Auburn, NY on March 10, 1913. She was given a military burial and a monument was erected in her honor as one of Auburn's, as well as America's, greatest citizens.

 

 

 


"se wo were fi na wosan kofa a yennki"
(translation below)
"There is nothing wrong with going back to fetch what one has forgotten."
  -- Ashanti saying
 

 

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2006 Inge Hardison.
Sculpture Photography by: Gerald Peart.

 

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