The Latymer School History Magazine - page 29

Notice published in the
Cambridge Democrat
newspaper, offering a three
hundred dollar reward for
capture of the escaped slaves
"Minty" (Harriet Tubman) and
her brothers Henry and Ben
Harriet ‘Rit’ Green and Ben
Ross. The disadvantage with
which she entered the world
was to neither hinder nor
discourage her fight for
freedom, the majority of her
life being devoted to the
humanitarian cause. Her
eight-year contribution to
the Underground Railroads is
only one of her great
achievements, where she is
personally credited with the
liberation of over 200 slaves
using the network, but her
journey does not end here;
she was to later become
involved in the Civil War as a
spy and continued to fight
for the rights of women as a
suffragette until the end of
her life.
As a young child Tubman
worked under her mother
and father’s slave owners
Anthony and Mary Brodess,
spending most of her time
looking after her
younger siblings
whilst her
mother worked
in the ‘big
house’. At the
age of six she
was leased as a
nursemaid and,
even from this
early age, it was
evident she had
a taste for
running away for
days at a time.
Despite all of her
Tubman’s faith in
God never
faltered and she
consistently used
her spirituality to
guide her in her
conquests. A
incident during
her teenage
years is said to
have enhanced
her belief in
religion - she
received a blow
to the head by a
2lb weight, an
injury that led to epileptic
seizures and headaches that
would stay with her for the
rest of her life. As a result she
continually experienced vivid
dreams, which she believed
to be visions and revelations
from God.
Tubman’s first escape
attempt was in September
1849 following the death of
Anthony Brodess, as she
feared she would be sold
and her family separated.
She was adamant that her
fate was not to be left in the
hands of the Brodess’; her
choices, she said, were
“liberty or death – if I could
not have one, I would have
the other.” On the night of
the 17th she escaped with
two of her brothers, but
during the attempt the
brothers had doubts and
forced Harriet to go back
with them. This was just a
small hiccup for her, and it
was during her solo getaway
soon after that she first came
in to contact with the
Underground Railroads. It
was a network of secret
tunnels and safe houses,
commonly owned by white
abolitionists who worked
alongside both free and
enslaved blacks. Tubman
reached her destination of
Philadelphia but was
plagued by thoughts of her
enslaved family. She
intended to return to
Maryland despite the Law
working strongly against her:
the Fugitive Slave Law of
1850 resulted in heavy
punishments for anyone
found to aid or abet escaped
slaves and increased the risk
for Tubman and others
working on the Underground
Railroads. Consequently
many of the freed slaves
were led to Canada.
It was during this time that
Tubman became one of the
most successful ‘conductors’
of the Railroads - conductors
were the names of those
who led and escorted slaves
to and from safe houses. Her
success can be measured
both by the number of
missions she led (around 20)
and the fact that she “never
ran her train off the track nor
ever lost a passenger”, as she
once pointed out. Her
methods were skillful and
required copious amounts of
ingenuity; she often travelled
in the winter months when
nights were longer and
darker and left on Saturday
evenings as she knew the
newspapers were only
printed on Mondays, giving
the escaped slaves a two day
advantage before missing
notices were sent out. When
she initially returned to
Maryland her goal was to
rescue her family, but she did
not hesitate to continually
risk her life for strangers,
stating that she often
“consulted with God” and
knew he would keep her
safe. She was a
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