More than 100 years ago, Queen Liliuokalani, as gracious and refined a Christian
lady as ever there was, and a songwriter with over 200 songs to her credit (including
"Aloha Oe"), was Hawaii's undisputed ruler. But in 1893 she was unlawfully deposed
by the missionary faction which had her ignominiously thrown into jail on the charge
of "treason," then robbed of her personal possessions. Helping to carry out this
escapade were US gunboats and US sailors but it's best to let her tell her own story:
Words of harm towards my person had been openly spoken by the
revolutionists; spies were in my household, and surrounded my house
by day and by night; spies were also stationed at the steps of the
Congregational church opposite my residence, to take note of those
who entered my gates, how long they remained, and when they went
out. My respect for true religion prevents my stating the active part
one of the preachers of God's Word took in this espionage.
... That first night of my imprisonment was the longest night I have
ever passed in my life; it seemed as though the dawn of day would never
come. I found in my bag a small Book of Common prayer according
to the ritual of the Episcopal Church. It was a great comfort to me,
... Here, perhaps, I may say, that although I had been a regular attendant
on the Presbyterian worship since my childhood, a constant contributor
to all the missionary societies, and had helped to build their churches
and ornament the walls, giving my time and musical ability freely to
make their meetings attractive to my people, yet none of these pious
church members or clergymen remembered me in my prison.
... To this day, the only documents which have been returned to me is
my will. Never since have I been able to find the private papers of my
husband nor those of mine that had been kept by me for use or reference,
and which had no relation to political events.
... I shall not claim that in the days of Captain Cook our people were
civilized. I shall not claim anything more for their progress in
civilization and Christian morality than has been already attested
by missionary writers. Perhaps I may safely claim even less, admitting
the criticism of some intelligent visitors who were not missionaries,
that the habits and prejudices of New England Puritanism were not
well adapted to the genius of a tropical people, nor capable of being
thoroughly ingrafted upon them. But Christianity in substance they
have accepted; and I know of no people who have developed a tenderer
Christian conscience, or who have shown themselves more ready
to obey its behests. Nor has any people known to history shown a
greater reverence and love for their Christian teachers ...
But will it also be thought strange that education and knowledge of
the world have enabled us to perceive that as a race we have some
special mental and physical requirements not shared by other races
which have come among us? That certain habits and modes of living
are better for our health and happiness than others? And that a
separate nationality, and a particular form of government, as well
as special laws, are, at least for present, best for us?
And these things remained to us, until the pitiless and tireless
"annexation policy" was effectively backed by the naval power of
the United States. ...
If we have nourished in our bosom those who have sought our ruin,
it has been because they were of the people whom we believed to be
our dearest friends and allies. If we did not by force resist their final
outrage, it was because we could not do so without striking at the military
force of the United States.
...So it happens that, overawed by the power of the United States to
the extent that they can neither themselves throw off the usurpers, nor
obtain assistance from other friendly states, the people of the Islands
have no voice in determining their future, but are virtually relegated
to the condition of the aborigines of the American continent.
But for the Hawaiian people, for the forty thousand of my own race and
blood, descendants of those who welcomed the devoted and pious
missionaries of seventy years ago, - for them has this mission of mine
Oh honest Americans, as Christians hear me for my down-trodden
people! Their form of government is as dear to them as yours is precious
to you. Quite as warmly as you love, so they love theirs. ... do not covet
the little vineyard of Naboth's, so far from your shores, lest the punishment
of Ahab fall upon you, if not in your day, in that of your children, for "be
not deceived, God is not mocked." (Hawaii's Story Queen Liliuokalani)
Justly has it been said of New England's Congregational missionaries who
descended on Hawaii in the early part of the 19th century, that "first they came
sightless, then blinded by self righteousness, and lastly eyes open to self interest."
However pure their initial intentions, somewhere along the way they misplaced
their moral compass and in so doing, instead of doing good to others, ended up
only doing well for themselves.
What began as a moral fiasco in their day has become a public relations fiasco in
ours. When the United States, ever heedless of native rights, made Hawaii the 50th
state of the Union in 1959, it did nothing to compensate the native born. James
Mitchner's novel, Hawaii, followed up a few years later by a movie of the same name,
made all of this painfully clear. Though the movie is not in all respects historically
accurate even by Hollywood's standards, there remains an undeniable core of truth
that Christian religious enterprise has seriously harmed native Hawaiian interests.
Perhaps it's just a coincidence, but since the introduction of this movie, whose
viewership ran in excess of 100 million, there has been a palpable loss of confidence
in Christian missions by a public grown weary of cover-ups and insincerity. If
Christendom is to redeem its good name, it will be by honestly addressing and, if need
be, redressing the wrongs done in its name. As we see the fulfillment of Queen
Liliuokalani's dire warnings approaching, the doom of Ahab, we ask, will there
be repentance and redress of grievance or will the day of grace be allowed to slip
Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon my people for
centuries untold, and which to us appears changeless and eternal,
may change. Today is fair. Tomorrow it may be overcast with clouds.
My words are like the stars that never change. Whatever Seattle says,
the great chief at Washington can rely upon with as much certainty
as he can upon the return of the sun or the seasons. The white chief
says that Big Chief at Washington sends us greetings of friendship
and goodwill. This is kind of him for we know he has little need of
our friendship in return. His people are many. They are like the grass
that covers vast prairies. My people are few. They resemble the
scattering trees of a storm- swept plain. The great, and I presume
-- good, White Chief sends us word that he wishes to buy our land
but is willing to allow us enough to live comfortably. This indeed
appears just, even generous, for the Red Man no longer has rights
that he need respect, and the offer may be wise, also, as we are no
longer in need of an extensive country.
There was a time when our people covered the land as the waves of
a wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor, but that time long
since passed away with the greatness of tribes that are now but a
mournful memory. I will not dwell on, nor mourn over, our untimely
decay, nor reproach my paleface brothers with hastening it, as we too
may have been somewhat to blame.
Youth is impulsive. When our young men grow angry at some real
or imaginary wrong, and disfigure their faces with black paint,
it denotes that their hearts are black, and that they are often cruel
and relentless, and our old men and old women are unable to restrain
them. Thus it has ever been. Thus it was when the white man began
to push our forefathers ever westward. But let us hope that the
hostilities between us may never return. We would have everything
to lose and nothing to gain. Revenge by young men is considered
gain, even at the cost of their own lives, but old men who stay at
home in times of war, and mothers who have sons to lose, know
Our good father in Washington - for I presume he is now our father
as well as yours, since King George has moved his boundaries further
north - our great and good father, I say, sends us word that if we
do as he desires he will protect us. His brave warriors will be to us a
bristling wall of strength, and his wonderful ships of war will fill
our harbors, so that our ancient enemies far to the northward - the
Haidas and Tsimshians - will cease to frighten our women, children,
and old men. Then in reality he will be our father and we his children.
But can that ever be?
Your God is not our God! Your God loves your people and hates
mine! He folds his strong protecting arms lovingly about the
paleface and leads him by the hand as a father leads an infant son.
But, He has forsaken His Red children, if they really are His. Our
God, the Great Spirit, seems also to have forsaken us. Your God
makes your people wax stronger every day. Soon they will fill all
the land. Our people are ebbing away like a rapidly receding tide
that will never return. The white man's God cannot love our people
or He would protect them. They seem to be orphans who can look
nowhere for help. How then can we be brothers? How can your
God become our God and renew our prosperity and awaken in us
dreams of returning greatness? If we have a common Heavenly
Father He must be partial, for He came to His paleface children.
We never saw Him. He gave you laws but had no word for His red
children whose teeming multitudes once filled this vast continent
as stars fill the firmament. No; we are two distinct races with
separate origins and separate destinies. There is little in common
To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their resting place
is hallowed ground. You wander far from the graves of your ancestors
and seemingly without regret. Your religion was written upon tablets
of stone by the iron finger of your God so that you could not forget.
The Red Man could never comprehend or remember it. Our religion
is the traditions of our ancestors - the dreams of our old men, given
them in solemn hours of the night by the Great Spirit; and the visions
of our sachems, and is written in the hearts of our people.
Your dead cease to love you and the land of their nativity as soon as
they pass the portals of the tomb and wander away beyond the stars.
They are soon forgotten and never return. Our dead never forget this
beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its verdant valleys,
its murmuring rivers, its magnificent mountains, sequestered vales
and verdant lined lakes and bays, and ever yearn in tender fond affection
over the lonely hearted living, and often return from the happy hunting
ground to visit, guide, console, and comfort them.
Day and night cannot dwell together. The Red Man has ever fled the
approach of the White Man, as the morning mist flees before the
morning sun. However, your proposition seems fair and I think that
my people will accept it and will retire to the reservation you offer them.
Then we will dwell apart in peace, for the words of the Great White
Chief seem to be the words of nature speaking to my people out of
It matters little where we pass the remnant of our days. They will not
be many. The Indian's night promises to be dark. Not a single star of
hope hovers above his horizon. Sad-voiced winds moan in the distance.
Grim fate seems to be on the Red Man's trail, and wherever he will hear
the approaching footsteps of his fell destroyer and prepare stolidly to
meet his doom, as does the wounded doe that hears the approaching
footsteps of the hunter.
A few more moons, a few more winters, and not one of the descendants
of the mighty hosts that once moved over this broad land or lived in
happy homes, protected by the Great Spirit, will remain to mourn over
the graves of a people once more powerful and hopeful than yours. But
why should I mourn at the untimely fate of my people? Tribe follows
tribe, and nation follows nation, like the waves of the sea. It is the order
of nature, and regret is useless. Your time of decay may be distant, but
it will surely come, for even the White Man whose God walked and
talked with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common
destiny. We may be brothers after all. We will see.
We will ponder your proposition and when we decide we will let you
know. But should we accept it, I here and now make this condition
that we will not be denied the privilege without molestation of visiting
at any time the tombs of our ancestors, friends, and children. Every
part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every
hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by
some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks,
which seem to be dumb and dead as the swelter in the sun along the
silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with
the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand
responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is
rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious
of the sympathetic touch. Our departed braves, fond mothers, glad,
happy hearted maidens, and even the little children who lived here
and rejoiced here for a brief season, will love these somber solitudes
and at eventide they greet shadowy returning spirits. And when the
last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall
have become a myth among the White Men, these shores will swarm
with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children's
children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop,
upon the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will
not be alone. In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude.
At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and
you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts
that once filled them and still love this beautiful land. The White
Man will never be alone.
Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not
powerless. Dead, did I say? There is no death, only a change of worlds.
"Dead niggers tell no tales. You go on brother -- or die!"
So said Harriet Tubman while pointing a pistol at a runaway slave
who had lost his nerve and was contemplating a return to servitude.
For good reason, Harriet Tubman was not about to turn back: too
dangerous. Neither was she letting anyone else do so. She knew her
business. An experienced conductor (or, if you will, abductor) with
the Under-ground Rail Road (UGRR), Harriet Tubman, from her
own escape from slavery in 1849 to the outbreak of the Civil War
in 1861, personally conducted 19 forays south of the Mason-Dixon
Line, resulting in the liberating of more than 300 slaves. (Some
sources say 350+ but exact count was never kept.) From experience
she knew that one can not afford to risk the well-being of the group
to accommodate the fears of one, for, as she put it:
... times were very critical and therefore no foolishness
would be indulged in on the road.
And, indeed, against all odds, thanks to her hard-nosed policy, not so
much as a single one of her charges were lost either to re-capture or to
death. As she said:
I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.
Born into slavery in the year circa 1820 or '21. (Actually the record is
quite hazy; some say she was born as early as 1819 while others say as late
as 1823). Bearing an African name, "Araminta," Harriet, being of West
African heritage, grew of age on a plantation in the tidewater region of
eastern Maryland, near a rural crossroads called "Bucktown."
From the time she was five she was hired out to weave and
keep house. From age ten on she was worked in the fields.
One day a "Miss Susan," drove up to the plantation requesting "a
young girl to care for her infant. Thus, at age five, Araminta was
loaned out to another plantation as a baby tender and domestic. It was
her first experience outside the slave quarters and she felt great
embarrassment upon entering into the company of white folk. In
addition to her day chores, it fell to her to keep the baby from crying
throughout the night. Once she was whipped five times before
breakfast on account of the baby's whimpering. Scars on her neck
bore witness to this ill usage the rest of her life. After a while, she
became worn down to exhaustion, fell sick, and then was sent home.
That was a repeating pattern, overworked, then collapsing. When she
was seven, one of her mistresses habitually whipped her first thing
in the morning before breakfast as a matter of course. To ward off
the blows, Araminta would put on thick clothing, then wail forth as
if the beating had had its full effect. Later, when none were looking,
she'd shed her excess wrappings.
It was then, at the tender age of seven, that Araminta made her first
break for freedom, running as far away as her legs could carry her:By and by when I was clar tuckered out, I came to a greatEventually proving herself intractable, Araminta was turned out-of-
big pig-pen. Dar was an old sow dar an' perhaps eight
or nine little pigs. I was too little to climb into it but
I tumbled ober the high board, an' fell in on de ground;
I was so beat out that I could not stir. An' dere I stayed
from Friday till de nex' Chusday, fightin' wid dose little
pigs for de potato peelin's an' oder scraps dat came down
in de trough. De ole sow would push me away when I
tried to git her chillen's food, an' I was awful afeared
of her. By Chusday I was so starved I knowed I had to
go back to my Missus. I hand't got no whar else to go,
but I knowed what was comin.
doors to work in the fields with the men, a lifestyle that proved more
agreeable to her. Breaking flax, lifting heavy bags of grain, these were
some of the daily activities that strengthened her such that, as her friend
and biographer, Sarah Bradford, related:
... powerful men often stood astonished to see this
woman perform feats of strength from which they
One day , from her perch on a fencepost, Araminta saw a scene that
left an indelible impression on her, that of her two sisters being led
off in chains weeping and lamenting. She never forgot the agonized
expression on their faces. To the last possible moment, she watched as
the chain-gang to which they were attached disappeared from view,
after which they were never seen or heard from again. As a witness
of her mother's grief and of her father's despair as their children
were ripped from their clutches, Harriet asked of God:
Is there no deliverance for my people?
On one occasion, in her 13th year, Harriet was at the local general
store when suddenly the field boss burst in, in hot pursuit of a slave who
had left without permission. Cornering his hapless prey, the boss man
started in on him, administering a beating. Harriet, attempting to
interfere, interposed herself between them which so infuriated him
that he took up a two pound counter-weight and struck her a stunning
blow to the head, fracturing her skull and leaving her with a life-long
concave depression. Ever afterward Harriet was subject to fits of
somnolence temporarily incapacitating her. When the fit was upon
her, her appearance became altered as if she were retarded.
In her days of servitude, as she was approaching her majority,
Harriet contracted a serious illness causing her to be laid up for
months on end. While in this debilitated state, discussions regarding
her fate were held in her presence. Confiding in, Sarah Bradford,
Harriet reflected on those times, saying:
... as I lay so sick on my bed, from Christmas till
March, I was always praying for ole master. 'Pears
like I didn't do nothing but pray for ole master. "Oh,
Lord, convert ole master; Oh, der Lord, change dat
man's heart, and make him a Christian." And all the
time he was bringing men to look at me, and dey stood
there saying what dey would give, and what dey would
take, and all I could say was, "Oh, Lord, convert ole
master." Den I heard dat as soon as I was able to
move I was to be sent with my brudders, in the chaingang
to de far south. Then I changed my prayer, and I
said, 'Lord, if you ain't never going to change dat
man's heart, kill him Lord, and take him out of de
way, so he won't do no more mischief." Next ting I
heard ole master was dead; and he died just as he had
lived, a wicked, bad man. Oh, den it 'peared like I
would give de world full of silver and gold, if I had it,
to bring dat pore soul back, I would give myself; I
would give eberything! But he was gone, I couldn't
pray for him no more.
Upon recovering from this protracted period of illness, Harriet
was subject to a deeper spiritual impress than previously, such that
she, as it were, "prayed without ceasing":
'Pears like, I prayed all de time about my work,
eberywhere; I was always talking to de Lord. When
I went to the horse-trough to wash my face and
hands, I cried, "Oh, Lord, for Jesus' sake, wipe away
all my sins!" When I took up de broom and begun
to sweep, I groaned, "Oh, Lord, whatsoebber sin dere
be in my heart, sweep it out, Lord, clar and clean;"
but I can't pray no more for pore ole master.
Again plans were formed to sell Harriet Tubman and two of her
brothers to slavers from the deep south. Upon learning of this, all
three of them resolved to escape to the north. On the day before their
departure, Harriet made the rounds to the cabins in the encampment
where her people lived and carried to them this song concealing a
I'm gwine to leave you,
I'm sorry frien's, to lebe you,
I'll met you in de mornin'
On de oder side of Jordan,
For I'm boun' for de promised land.
Later, after Harriet turned up missing, her family took comfort in
the knowledge that she had made a break for freedom.
After striking forth on their journey, Harriet's brothers had a change
of mind. Suddenly the consequences of being caught loomed large in
their calculations. They knew that they risked severe beatings
administered by a cat-o'nine-tails or bull-whip. While slave owners
generally avoided permanently incapacitating or killing a slave, they
found that an occasional maiming or death suited their purposes by
helping create the proper climate of fear.
Finally fear of detection and capture overcame both her brothers
who decided to beat a hasty retreat back to the slave quarters before
their absence was noted and an alarm raised. But their sister was not
persuaded to return with them. Thus it came to pass that they bid
each other good-bye and parted company. Now alone in the world,
with neither map or compass to guide her, Harriet set her eye upon
a star and pressed on:
For I had reasoned dis out in my mind; there was one
of two things I had a right to, liberty, or death; if I
could not have one, I would have de oder; for no man
should take me alive; I should fight for my liberty as
long as my strength lasted, and when de time came for
me to go, de Lord would let dem take me.
Once Harriet knew that she had crossed the invisible boundary
between slavery and freedom, after days of hiding and night of
walking, she was swept by a new sensation:
I looked at my hands to see if I was de same person now
I was free. Dere was such a glory ober everything, de
sun came like gold trou de trees, and ober de fields, and
I felt like I was in heaven.
Then another thought came to mind, a thought which advanced
itself to the exclusion of other considerations:
I had crossed de line of which I had so long been
dreaming. I was free; but dere was no one to welcome
me to de land of freedom, I was a stranger in a
strange land, and my home after all was down in de
old cabin quarter, wid de ole folks, and my brudders
and sisters. But to dis solemn resolution I came; I
was free, and dey should be free also; I would make
a home for dem in de North, and de Lord helping
me, I would bring dem all dere. Oh, how I prayed
den, lying all alone on de cold, damp ground; "Oh,
der Lord," I said, "I haint got no friend but you.
Come to my help, Lord, for I'm in trouble!"
In time, Harriet would find work as a domestic, saving her wages
and taking on extra work. When a sufficient amount had been laid
aside to carry forward her plan, she would take her leave, to reappear
mysteriously in the dead of the night on a faraway plantation.
Initially she concentrated her efforts on her immediate family, her
sisters and brothers, their husbands and their wives, and all their
children. The babies she herself carried in a basket on her arm. Later
she rescued other slaves who were not her relatives, as many as thirty
at a time. Initially she took her escapees as far as New York State but
then, because of the Fugitive Slave Act and the infamous Dred Scott
Decision of 1857 in which the U.S. Supreme Court stipulated that no
slave had any right that a free man need honor, she began taking her
fugitives to safety in Canada.
In order to effect successful rescues, Harriet Tubman availed
herself of every manner of conveyance and adopted every imaginable
ruse. There were hair-raising incidents, close-calls, and hot pursuit.
She forded rivers and once hid out in a potato hole. On one occasion
she came so close to her former master that he touched the hem of her
garment, yet without recognizing her. This may have been due in part
to her presence of mind in ruffling up some chickens she was carrying
thereby distracting his attention. After that she jumped up and ran
after the birds which by that time were running loose and she followed
them over a fence and was gone.
It needn't be thought that Tubman relied entirely on quick-
wittedness or spur-of-the-moment improvisation for she carefully
plotted and strategized well in advance, and made plans for a variety
of contingencies. She acquired forged identity papers; also tincture
of opium to soothe a baby's crying.
She made a point of carrying out her rescues on a Saturday,
calculating that when the slave-master realized on Sunday that his
"property" had gone missing he would have to wait until Monday to
contact the newspaper to sound the alarm. Another of her tricks, one
she would resort to when she noticed that too much attention was
coming her way from white folk, was to go down to the station and
purchase tickets on a southbound train. That diversionary tactic alone
was quite helpful in deflecting suspicion from her true intent. By far,
however, her most successful ruse was that of disguising herself as
an old woman. As Sarah Bradford wrote:
At one time, as she was on her way South for a party of
slaves, she was stopped not far from the southern shore
of the Chesapeake Bay, by a young woman, who had
been for some days in hiding, and was anxiously watching
for "Moses," who was soon expected to pass that way.
This girl was a young and pretty Mulatto, named Tilly, she
had been lady's maid and dressmaker, for her Mistress.
She was engaged to a young man from another plantation,
but he had joined one of Harriet's parties, and gone North.
Tilly was to have gone also at that time, but had found it
impossible to get away. Now she had learned that it was
her Master's intention to give her to a Negro of his own
for his wife; and in fear and desperation, she made a strike
for freedom. Friends had concealed her, and all had been
on the watch for Moses.
The distress and excitement of the poor creature was so
great, and she begged and implored in such agonized tones
that Harriet would just see her safe to Baltimore, where
she knew of friends who would harbor her, and help her
on her way, that Harriet determined to turn about, and
endeavor to take the poor girl thus far on her Northward
They reached the shore of Chesapeake Bay too late to
leave that night, and were obliged to hide for a night and
day in the loft of an old out-house, where every sound
caused poor Tilly to tremble as if she had an ague fit.
When the time for the boat to leave arrived, a sad
disappointment awaited them. The boat on which they
had expected to leave was disabled, and another boat was
to take its place.
At that time, according to the law of Slavery, no Negro
could leave his Master's land, or travel anywhere, without
a pass, properly signed by his owner. Of course this poor
fugitive had no pass; and Harriet's passes were her own
wits; but among her many friends, there was one who
seemed to have influence with the clerk of the boat, on
which she expected to take passage; and she was the bearer
of a note requesting, or commanding him to take these two
women to the end of his route, asking no questions.
Now here was an unforeseen difficulty; the boat was not
going; the clerk was not there; all on the other boat were
strangers. But forward they must go, trusting in Providence.
As they walked down to the boat, a gang of lazy white men
standing together, began to make comments on their
"Too many likely looking Niggers traveling North, about
these days." "Wonder if these wenches have got a pass."
"Where you going, you two?" Tilly trembled and cowered,
and clung to her protector, but Harriet put on a bold front,
and holding the note given her by her friend in her hand,
and supporting her terrified charge, she walked by the men,
taking no notice of their insults.
They joined the stream of people going up to get their tickets,
but when Harriet asked for hers, the clerk eyed her
suspiciously, and said: "You just stand aside, you two; I'll
attend to your case bye and bye."
Harriet led the young girl to the bow of the boat, where they
were alone, and here, having no other help, she, as was her
custom, addressed herself to the Lord. Kneeling on the seat,
and supporting her head on her hands, and fixing her eyes on
the waters of the bay, she groaned:
"Oh, Lord! You've been wid me in six troubles, don't
desert me in the seventh!"
"Moses! Moses!" cried Tilly, pulling her by the sleeve. "Do
go and see if you can't get tickets now."
"Oh, Lord! You've been wid me in six troubles, don't
desert me in the seventh."
And so Harriet's story goes on in her peculiarly graphic
manner, till at length in terror Tilly exclaimed:
"Oh, Lord! You've been wid me in six troubles, don't
desert me in the seventh!"
"Moses! Moses!" cried Tilly, pulling her by the sleeve.
"Do go and see if you can't get tickets now."
And sure enough, they got their tickets. As to why this man changed
his tune toward them, Harriet never knew or inquired but just assumed
that it was "de Lord" and let it go at that, never inquiring as to the agency
he used. And when someone credited her with courage, she would deflect
the compliment, saying:
"Don't, I tell you, Missus, 'twan't me, 'twas de Lord!
Jes' so long as he wanted to use me, he would take keer
of me, an' when he didn't want me no longer, I was
ready to go; I always tole him, I'm gwine to hole stiddy
on to you, an' you've got to see me trou."
Prominent abolitionists aided Harriet Tubman in various ways,
including financially. As part of their organized effort, they
established a network of safe houses, all part of a larger effort known
to history as the "Underground Railroad." At no small risk to
themselves, sympathetic Southerners opened their doors to escaping
slaves. One such person was Sam Green who spent a full decade in
prison for possessing a copy of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," the famous
novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe which detailed in dramatic fashion
the depredations of Southern chattel slavery. (In Maryland mere
possession of this book was proscribed in law.) Had his association
with Harriet Tubman become known to the powers-that-be
something far worse than ten years in prison would surely have
One evening, while the party of people she was leading waited
patiently in the street in a pouring rain, Harriet Tubman approached
the home of Thomas Garrett and gave her characteristic knock on his
door. There was a long delay; then a window was raised and a stranger
stuck his head out and demanded to know: "Who are you? What do
you want?" Upon asking after her friend she was told that he had
been obliged to leave on account of "harboring niggers." Certain
the alarm would be sounded, Harriet fled with her people to a swamp
and spent the rest of the evening there face down in the wet grass.
Wilmington, Delaware's "station-master" on the Under-ground
Railroad, Thomas Garrett's practice was to parcel out shoes to the
people he took in which, as the proprietor of a shoe-making business,
he was in a position to do. But twice he had to forfeit all of his
earthly possessions as the penalty for providing such help. When
pronouncing sentence, the presiding United States Court judge said
Garrett, let this be a lesson you, not to interfere
hereafter with the cause of justice, by helping off
When he stood to receive sentence, the old man fixed his eyes on
the Judge and said:
Judge -- thee hasn't left me a dollar, but I wish to say
to thee, and to all in this court room that if anyone
knows of a fugitive who wants a shelter, and a friend,
send him to Thomas Garrett, and he will befriend him!
Meanwhile, slave-holders, angered by her many successes, held
heated public meetings to disparage Tubman and declare their intention
of taking her dead or alive. The stupendous sum of $40,000, was placed
upon her head ($12,000 alone of which was pledged by Maryland's
State Legislature), making her the most wanted person in America.
Despite this and threats to have her burned at the stake (a la Joan of
Arc) and despite the warnings and apprehensions of her friends, Harriet
Tubman set her face southward yet again. Undeterred, she reasoned
with them saying:
Now look yer! John saw de City didn't he? Yes, John
saw de City, Well, what did he see? He saw twelve
gates, didn't he? Three of dose gates was on de north;
three of 'em was on de east; and' three of 'em was on
de west; but dere was three more an' dem was on de
south; an' I reckon if dey dill me down dere, I'll git
into one of dem gates, don't you?
After rescuing her own family from slavery, Harriet Tubman next
turned her attention to rescuing able-bodied men, for these were the
ones she could count on to run the fastest and endure the most amount
of hardship. Besides, in so doing she caused maximum economic
hardship for their owners, a not insignificant side benefit. Of course
this helps explain the exorbitant price placed upon her head; it's purpose
was not to confer upon her any sort of special status but as an attempt
to curtail the very real damage she was inflicting on the slave-owners'
A MAN NAMED "JOE."
The circumstances of Joe's deliverance were these: year in and year out
he had faithfully served his slavemaster and he thought, thereby, to have
made himself well nigh indispensable. In reality, however, all it meant was
that his master was able to fetch a higher price, a $1000 down and a $1000
to be paid at a later date. The morning after this transaction occurred, the
new master came up riding up to Joe's slave shanty on a charger and
summoned him forth, saying:
Now Joe strip and take a licking.
Pleading, Joe replied:
Mas'r habn't I always been faithful to you? Haven't I
worked through sun and rain, early in de mornin' an'
late at night; habn't I saved you an oberseer by doin'
his work? hab you anything to complain agin me?
Replied his new master:
No, Joe, I have no complaint to make of you. You're
a good nigger, an' you have always worked well. But
you belong to me now; your my nigger, and the first
lesson my niggers have to learn is that I am master and
they belong to me; and never to resist anything I order
them to do. So I always begin by giving them a good
licking. Now strip and take it.
Seeing there to be no recourse, he did as he was told but to himself he
Dis is de first an' de last.
As soon as his torn-up flesh would allow it, he high-tailed it down
river to a cabin where Harriet Tubman's father resided and this is what
Nex' time Moses comes, let me know.
And before long, Joe, his brothers , William, Peter, and Eliza were on
their way, along with several others to form a party of seven led by Harriet
who took them all to Canada but not first without a few close calls. For
instance, when they got to Wilmington, they were alerted by Thomas
Garrett that the bridge over the Dover River had been posted with a guard
on the look out for escaped slaves, and specifically for Joe. So they worked
out a plan whereby "bricklayers" would go over the bridge in a wagon in
the morning, singing as they went, and come back at nightfall, still singing
as is universally the wont of workmen. And of course, this time lying on
the floor boards were the wanted fugitives. This ruse worked like a charm,
throwing the authorities completely off their track.
Finally, they got to New York States' border, where they stopped at the
anti-slavery office and were greeted by a Mr. Oliver Johnson, who turned
to Joe and said:Not understanding this figurative expression, Joe drew a blank. And
Well, Joe, I am glad to see the man who is worth $2,000 to
On hearing this remark, Joe exclaimed:
Oh, Mas'r, how did you know me!"
The reply he received greatly unsettled him:
Here is the advertisement in our office and the description
is so close that no one could mistake it.
On inquiring how much further it was to the Canadian border, Joe
learned that it was several hundred miles, after which he turned pensive
Now with the roar of Niagara Falls in their ears, there was only "one
wide river to cross" as the Negro spiritual foes, and Harriet wanted all
her companions to experience this glorious sight but she couldn't coax
Joe to go to the train window and look out. Instead, deep in thought, he
sat with his head in his hands. When Harriet felt the train cease to
ascend but start to descend, she knew they were at the center of the bridge
and that all danger was past; then she sprang to Joe's side of the car, and
shook him almost out of his seat, exclaiming:
Joe! you've shook de lion's paw!
so she said to him more explicitly:
Joe, you're in Queen Victoria's dominions! You're a free man!
Then Joe arose and with hands held high began to sing and shout:
Glory to God and Jesus too,
One more soul got safe;
Oh, go and carry the news,
One more soul got safe.
As Harriet recalled:
The white ladies and gentlemen gathered round him
till I couldn't see Joe for the crowd, only I heard his
voice singing, 'Glory to God and Jesus too,' louder
than ever." A sweet young lady reached over her fine
cambric handkerchief to him, and as Joe wiped the
great tears off his face, he said, "Tank de Lord! dere's
only one more journey for me now, and dat's to Hebben!"
Harriet was to see Joe several times after that joyous day, happy,
industrious, and free. By the way, how do you suppose Joe might
have responded several years latter (December 1, 1862) to Lincoln's
Annual Message to Congress in which he described America, as "the
last best hope of earth"? Luckily for Lincoln, he didn't say that to
Joe's face, otherwise maybe he'd have found himself wiping spittle
from his eye. Then again, maybe Joe would have responded mildly
saying to Lincoln, Jesus not America was the last best hope of earth.
HONOR THY PARENTS.
In 1858, Harriet Tubman was finally able to liberate her parents.
Her father was to be tried in court the following Monday for helping
off slaves but she got to him first. Regarding this, she said:
I just removed my father's trial to a higher
court, and brought him off to Canada.
Of this incident, Thomas Garrett left us a few interesting details:
She [Tubman] brought away her parents in a singular
style. They started out with an old horse fitted out in
primitive [fashion] with a straw collar, a pair of old
chaise wheels, with a board on the axle to sit on, another
board swung with ropes, fastened to the axle, to rest
their feet on. She got her parents, who were both
slaves belonging to different masters on this crude
vehicle to the railroad, put them in the cars, [then]
turned Jehu [an Israelite King noted for chariot warfare],
... and drove to town in a style that no other human
being ever did before or since.
Remarkable to Harriet Tubman was that a white man could so take
to heart her people's cause as John Brown did. She collaborated with
him to the extent of recruiting volunteers in Canada to join his
guerrilla army and it is said that had it not ill-health intervened, she
would have joined him on his ill-fated raid at Harper's Ferry. In any
event, as the Boston Commonwealth of 1863 reported, he was much
on her mind and that she had a premonition regarding his fate:
... she laid great stress on a dream which she had just
before she met Captain Brown in Canada. She thought
she was in "a wilderness sort of place, all full of rocks,
and bushes," when she saw a serpent raise its head among
the rocks, and as it did so, it became the head of an old
man with a long white beard, gazing at her, "wistful
like, jes as ef he war gwine to speak to me," and then
two other heads rose up beside him, younger than he, --
and as she stood looking at them, and wondering what
they could want with her, a great crowd of men rushed
in and struck down the younger heads, and then the
head of the old man, still looking at her so "wistful."
This dream she had again and again, and could not
interpret it; but when she met Captain Brown, shortly
after, behold, he was the very image of the head she
had seen. But still she could not make out what her
dream signified, till the news came to her of the tragedy
of Harper's Ferry, and then she knew the two heads
were his two sons [who were killed in the battle].
John Brown's nickname for her was "General Tubman" because
he thought her capable of leading an army which, as events transpired,
was about what happened. As for John Brown, "General" Tubman
said of him:
When I think how he gave up his life for our people, and
how he never flinched, but was so brave to the end; it's
clear to me it wasn't mortal man, it was God in him.
INCIDENT at TROY.
From the Troy Whig, April 28, 1860:
Yesterday afternoon, the streets of this city and West Troy
were made the scenes of unexampled excitement. For the
first time since the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, an
attempt was made here to carry its provisions into execution,
and the result was a terrific encounter between the officers
and the prisoner's friends, the triumph of mob law, and the
final rescue of the fugitive. Our city was thrown into a grand
state of turmoil, and for a time every other topic was forgotten,
to give place to this new excitement. ...
This then were the circumstances: in the spring of 1860, Harriet
was enroute to Boston where she had an engagement to address a large,
anti-slavery gathering but stopped first in Troy, NY to visit a cousin.
On that very day, April 27th, at eleven in the morning, a Charles
Nalle, about age 30, had been arrested by a US Marshal, then taken to
the corner of First and State Streets where on the second floor of the
Mutual Bank building was a federal commissioner's office. At two
o'clock that afternoon , he got a brief hearing before Commissioner
Beach. An attempt was made to keep any sympathizers out of the
hearing but, somehow, Harriet gained entry by disguising herself as
an old woman, wearing a big bonnet. It has been suggested by some
that she had been mistaken for the scrubwoman. However that may
be, she was present when the decision was handed down to remand
Nalle back to Virginia.
On hearing this decision, Nalle suddenly bolted for the window ledge
as if to jump into the waiting arms of the crowd gathering below but he
was hauled back in by the bailiffs. Then, in the blink of an eye, Tubman
sprang to life, instantly transforming herself from frail, old lady to
mighty warrior, jumping up and grabbing Nalle, wrenching him free of
his guards and dragging him toward the stairs. As one eyewitness wrote,
"she was repeatedly beaten over the head with policeman's clubs, yet
never for a moment releasing her hold."
Meanwhile, on the street below a huge mixed crowd of poor blacks
but also Troy's most upstanding white citizens had gathered. Then, as
Offers were made to buy Charles from his master, who at
first agreed to take twelve hundred dollars for him, but
when this was subscribed, he immediately raised the price
to fifteen hundred. The crowd grew more excited. A
gentleman raised a window and called out, "Two hundred
dollars for his rescue, but not one cent to his master!"
Then, Harriet Tubman cried out:
Drag us out! Drag him to the river! Drown him!
But don't let them have him!"
With characteristic foresight, Harriet had contracted beforehand
with a sympathetic boats man to be waiting for them at river's edge.
Turning again to the Troy Whig for its account:
Exactly what did go on in the crowd, it is impossible to say,
but the pulling, hauling, mauling, and shouting, gave
evidences of frantic efforts on the part of the rescuers, and
a stern resistance from the conservators of the law. ... A
number in the crowd were more or less hurt, and it is a
wonder that these were not badly injured, as pistols were
drawn and chisels used.
The battle had raged as far as the corner of Dock and
Congress Streets, and the victory remained with the rescuers
at last. The officers were completely worn out with their
exertions, and it was impossible to continue their hold upon
him any longer. Nalle was at liberty. His friends rushed him
down Dock Street to the lower ferry, where there was a skiff
lying ready to start. The fugitive was put in, the ferryman
rowed off, and amid the shouts of hundreds who lined the
banks of the river, Nalle was carried into Albany County.
Turning back then to Sarah Bradford's account:
Again and again they were knocked down, the poor slave
utterly helpless, with his manacled wrists, streaming with
blood. Harriet's outer clothes were torn from her, and even
her stout shoes were pulled from her feet, yet she never
relinquished her hold of the man, till she had dragged him
to the river, where he was tumbled into a boat, Harriet
following in a ferry-boat to the other side. But the telegraph
was ahead of them, and as soon as they landed he was seized
and hurried from her sight. After a time, some school
children came hurrying along, and to her anxious inquiries
they answered, "He is up in that house, in the third story."
Harriet rushed up to the place. Some men were attempting
to make their way up the stairs. The officers were firing
down, and two men were lying on the stairs, who had been
shot. Over their bodies ... [Harriet] rushed, and with the
help of others burst open the door of the room, and dragged
out the fugitive, whom Harriet carried down stairs in her
arms. A gentleman who was riding by with a fine horse,
stopped to ask what the disturbance meant; and on hearing
the story, his sympathies seemed to be thoroughly aroused;
he sprang from his wagon, calling out, "That is a blood-
horse, drive him till he drops." The poor man was hurried
in; some of his friends jumped in after him, and drove at the
most rapid rate to Schenectady.
Later on, as a free man, Nalle returned to Troy where he lived with
his wife and children seven years.
In April, 1861, with the Battle of Fort Sumter, the war between
the States commenced in earnest. Troops from every quarter were
gathered. In Massachusetts, Governor Andrew sent for Harriet
Tubman. He asked her if she would go south with the Union troops
to serve in whatever capacity she was needed. At that time Harriet
Tubman had a small farm in Auburn New York and her hands were
full caring for her own people. Nevertheless, she answered the call.
At first she was employed as a domestic, but then she became a
hospital nurse. The need was great and conditions quite dreadful.
In her own words:
I'd go to de hospital, I would, early eb'ery morn-in'.
I'd get a big chunk of ice, I would, and put it in a
basin, and fill it with water; den I'd begin to bathe der
wounds, an' by de time I'd bathed off three or four, de
fire and heat would have melted de ice and made de
water warm, an' it would be as red as clar blood. Den
I'd go an' git more ice, I would, an' by de time I got
to de nex' ones, de flies would be roun' de fust ones
black an' thick as eber.
As her reputation as a healer spread, she was called from one
military post to another to tend to the sick and wounded. Her
treatments included traditional remedies based on preparations
of roots which she gathered at river's edge.
When the Union generals found their troops unable to win the
confidence of the slaves, they asked Harriet Tubman to intercede.
She proved so successful in eliciting valuable information from
them that she ended up forming her own independent spy service,
actually a rudimentary intelligence network that kept track of such
things as Confederate troop movements.
It became increasingly apparent that it would be helpful to the
cause if she were to accompany military expeditions upriver into
unsecured territory. General Hunter invited her to join one such
expedition up South Carolina's Combahee River to clear the river
of torpedoes and to cut railroads and bridges that were useful to the
Confederates. She agreed to go but only if Colonel Montgomery
was appointed to command the task force which consisted of 300
black soldiers. The Colonel, one of John Brown's men, was well
known to her and she had confidence in his capability. Her request
On the night of June 2, 1863 the expedition outfitted with three
gunboats, began working its way up river. Its progress was observed
by slaves working in the fields. At first they dropped whatever tasks
they were performing to run for the woods. But once word got out
that these were "Lincoln's gun-boats," they reversed direction; men,
women, and children: they all came running down to the river until
nearly 800 souls could been seen thronging the shoreline.
Above the clamor and din Colonel Montgomery shouted Moses!"
(Harriet's nickname), "Moses, you'll have to give 'em a song." She
complied in rousing fashion, bursting forth with:
Of all the whole creation in the East or in the West,
The glorious Yankee nation is the greatest and the best.
Come along! come along! don't be alarmed,
Uncle Sam is rich enough to give you all a farm.
Landing craft ferried the people to the gun-boats until all were
gathered aboard. Then the expedition returned to Beaufort.
What proved to be the greatest source of satisfaction to Harriet
Tubman in this episode, beside that no casualties had been incurred,
was that most of the able-bodied men liberated that day
immediately of their own volition enlisted in Lincoln' army.
A Boston newspaper, The Commonwealth, carried this dispatch,
July 10, 1863:
Col. Montgomery and his gallant band of 300 soldiers,
under the guidance of a black woman, dashed into the
enemy's country, struck a bold and effective blow,
destroying millions of dollars worth of commissary
stores, cotton, and lordly dwellings, and striking terror
in the hearts of the rebellion, brought off near 800
slaves and thousands of dollars worth of property,
without losing a man or receiving a scratch.
After they were fairly well disposed of in the Beaufort
charge, they were addressed in strains of thrilling
eloquence by the gallant deliverer, to which they
responded in a song. "There is a white robe for thee,"
a song so appropriate and so heartfelt and cordial
as to bring unbidden tears.
The Colonel was followed by a speech from the
black woman, who led the raid and under whose
inspiration it was originated and conducted. For
sound sense and real native eloquence, her address
would do honour to any man, and it created a great
An enduring mystery is how Harriet Tubman, an unschooled
illiterate, was able to grasp the big picture. Yet, with an uncanny
sense of strategy, early in the course of the war, long before the
Emancipation Proclamation had taken form in Lincoln's mind,
God's ahead ob Massa Linkum. God won't let Massa
Linkum beat de South till he do de right ting. Massa
Linkum he great man, and I'se poor nigger; but dis
nigger can tell Massa Linkum how to save de money
and de young men. He do it by setting de niggers
free. S'pose dar was awful' big snake down dar, on
de floor. He bite you. Folks all skeered, cause you
die. You send for doctor to cut de bite; but snake he
rolled up dar, and while doctor [binds] it, he bite you
agin. De doctor cut out dat bite, but ... de snake he
spring up and bite you agin, and he keep doing till
you kill him.
Tubman was at odds with Lincoln's approval of funding to
establish a colony for liberated slaves in Panama. In 1859,
denouncing the Colonization movement, she told a quaint story
about a farmer who planted onions and garlic in his field to help
fatten up the cattle only to discover that the taste of onions ended
up flavoring the milk. He realized too late his error because by
then the onions and garlic had seeded themselves and were then
ubiquitous. She next provided the story's application:
... the white people had got the Negroes here to do their
drudgery, and now they were trying to root them out and
ship them to Africa. But they can't do it: we're rooted
here and can't be pulled up.
Only after Abraham Lincoln was safely dead, did Harriet Tubman
have anything complimentary to say about him. She said:
I didn't like Lincoln in those days. I used to see Mrs.
Lincoln but I never wanted to see him. You see we
colored folk didn't understand that he was our friend.
All we knew was that the first colored troops sent
South from Massachusetts only got seven dollars a
month while the whites got fifteen. We didn't like
AT WAR's END.
In the summer of 1865, with the war behind her, Harriet took a
train via New Jersey to get back to her home in upstate New York
and one would have thought that, as a genuine war hero, she would
not have been troubled but predjudice was rampant. The train
conductor asked her for her ticket. She showed him her soldier’s
pass but he rejected it, claiming it must have been forged or stolen.
He ordered her to give up her seat. When Harriet refused, the
conductor started choking her. Several other men joined the fray
and together they succeeded in dragging Harriet to the baggage car,
though not without first breaking her arm. So there she lay, locked
up for the rest of the journey. She was several months recovering
from her injuries. Reflecting about this, Harriet concluded that she
was so treated not only because she was black, but because she was a
woman. After that she championed the rights of her gender as well
as of her race, befriending Susan B. Anthony and other suffragettes.
At war's end Harriet Tubman returned to Auburn, N.Y., where
she lived another 48 years secure and free in her own house on her
own land. What drew her to Auburn in the first instance was William
Seward (1801-1872), one of America's most stalwart abolitionists.
It was he who sold her seven acre farm in 1859. Actually, it was an
illegal transaction because the Supreme Court the year before had
declared that runaway slaves (of whom Harriet was certainly one)
were not US citizens and had no right to own property. Howbeit,
he sold the property to her all the same, the Supreme Court's ruling
notwithstanding, and at a reduced price and on favorable terms at
that, which is how they became near neighbors for many years.
Elected NY State's governor in 1838, Seward was appointed to the
US Senate in 1848 and then for eight years he served as Secretary
of State under both Presidents Lincoln and Johnson. Uniquely
positioned to bring to pass Harriets' vision of slavery's overthrow,
Seward worked diligently to that end.
Despite her good connections, Harriet's and her extended family's
first winter in Auburn was marked by privation. Lacking firewood,
they burned the picket fence to stay warm. Despite such problems,
"Aunt" Harriet," as she was affectionately known, set about organizing
"Freedom Fairs" for the purpose of collecting clothing and money to
support two schools in South Carolina.
In 1868, she married Nelson Davis a war veteran whom she
helped nurse back to health from tuberculosis. A brick maker, for
many years he plied his trade on the premises. But in 1884 his
health declined and that source of household income was lost.
Aunt Harriet's father, Benjamin died in 1871, her mother, in 1886.
In 1887 Harriet's woodframe home burned down. Though this was
replaced with a brick house, her treasure trove of correspondence
with many war veterans and abolitionists was irretrievably lost. But
whatever her trials or triumphs, she kept alive her vision for bettering
In 1896 she bought at auction a farm of 25 acres, all of which
she deeded over to the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church
in 1903. In 1908 many turned out to the dedication of the Harriet
Tubman Home for Aged and Infirm Negroes. She expressed, however,
her disappointment in the AME Church's leadership in the matter:
When I give the home over to Zion Church what you
suppose they done? Why they make a rule that nobody
should come in without they have a hundred dollars.
Now I want to make a rule that nobody should come in
unless they didn't have no money at all.
One cause to which Aunt Harriet lent her voice was that of
women's rights. Addressing a suffragette meeting in 1888, Harriet
said to the gathering regarding the previous war:
Loving women were on the scene to administer to the
injured, to bind up their wounds and tend them through
weary months of suffering in the army hospitals. If those
deeds did not place woman as man's equal, what do?
At another suffragette meeting in Rochester, N.Y., in 1896, Aunt
Harriet clasped hands at the podium with Susan B. Anthony and, as
one newspaper reporter wrote, Harriet impressed the audience:
... with the venerable dignity of her appearance
[and] honest and true benevolence of purpose
which commanded respect.
Connections between the Sewards' family and Harriet's were
close. She would mind their children, even as they watched out for
hers. And in this regard there is a curious tale to tell. In 1858 Harriet
abducted an eight year old girl named Margaret from her family and
brought her away to the Sewards who raised her in their own
household. Since this is the only instance on record of Harriet's taking
a juvenile out of her custodial home without parental consent some
explanation seems in order. Presumably, the girl in question, Margaret,
had been raised in the home of Harriet's brother, a prosperous free man.
But no such brother can be identified. So was she really Harriet's niece?
For one, she was very light skinned, yet her facial features bore a marked
resemblance to Harriet's. Not only that, there was a similarity in their
personalities. In any event, they were closest of friends through many
decades and Margaret, who was the mother of eight, was specially
remembered in Harriet's will. Is it possible that Margaret was not
Harriet's cousin but her daughter through rape by a white man at a time
when Harriet was deathly ill and thus vulnerable? If so, it would explain
a lot of things about why Harriet left slavery when she did and why she
was rejected by her slave husband who did not follow her but after a few
years married another woman.
IN THE AUTUMN OF LIFE.
With the passing of the years, Aunt Harriet's demeanor was
transformed by degrees from one of fierce determinedness to that of
sweet saintliness. This is not to say that she wasn't a kick in the pants.
Even as an old lady, Harriet used to walk the two miles to Samuel
Hopkins Adams' grandfather's home where it would be asked of her,
"Harriet will you sing for my grandchildren?" At first she would
decline but then "would clap her stringy hands upon her bony knees,
rock her powerful frame, snap her eyes," and belt out:Go Down Moses,and she did it just as in former times for those she was leading out of
Way down in Egypt's land
Tell ol' Pharaoh
Let my people go!
bondage to freedom. And children being children would ask her all
kinds of impertinent questions: "Show us your mark!" and she would
comply, revealing to them the scars indelibly imprinted by the whip
and when they asked her "did you kill lots of people?" she'd reply:
"Whuffoh I want to kill folks? Nobody nevah kill me!"
Aunt Harriet's grand-niece (or grand-daughter, as the case may be),
Alice Stewart, recalled her flair for the dramatic:
Suddenly I became aware of something moving toward
me through the grass. So smoothly did it glide and with
so little noise. I was frightened! Then reason conquered
fear and I knew it was Aunt Harriet, flat on her stomach,
and with only the use of her arms and serpentine movements
of her body, gliding smooth along. Mother helped her back
to her chair and they laughed. Aunt Harriet then told me
that was the way she had gone by many a sentinel during
Illustrating how Harriet let her life speak and left little space
between the "I should" and the "I did," was this exchange between her
and a reporter who came to interview her:
She [Harriet] looked musingly toward a nearby orchard,
and she said: "Did you ever plant any apple trees?" With
shame I confessed that I had not. "No," said she, "but
somebody else planted them." I liked apples when I was
young and I said: "Some day I'll plant apples myself for
other young folk to eat," and I guess I did. (N.Y. Herald)
Not long before her death in March, 1913, at more than 90 years
of age, knowing that she had run the course and had fought the good
fight, Harriet exclaimed:
I can hear dem bells a-ringin', I can hear
de angles singin'; dere is only one crown
left now, and dat's for old aunt Harriet --
and she shall not lose her reward.
At her funeral, Auburn's Common Council's president, John
F. Jaeckel made the following comment:
I may say that I have known"Aunt Harriet" during my
whole lifetime. The boys of my time always regarded her
as a sort of supernatural being; our youthful imaginations
were fired by the tales we had heard of her adventures and
we stood in great awe of her.
More recently, aptly summing up her life in a chapter called Jailbreak out
of History: the re-biography of Harriet Tubman, Butch Lee wrote:
Harriet wasn't leading the weak. No, that's got it backwards.
She was leading the strong. The great anti-slavery struggle
was a movement of the best and the bravest, the most serious-
minded folk of that day. And it was among these, the strong,
that Harriet was a leader.
I fear the internal damage that Judaism will sustain due
to the development, in our ranks, of a narrow nationalism.
We are not anymore the Jews of the Maccabees period.
To become again a nation in the political sense of the word
will be equivalent to turning away from the spiritualization
of our community that we owe to the generosity of our
I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing
to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people
themselves refuse to go to war.
I thought I was learning how to live,
when actually I was learning how to die.
Many will believe that they can with reason censure me,
alleging that my proofs are contrary to certain men of authority,
not reckoning that my conclusions were arrived at
through experience plain and simple,
which is the true mistress.
The natural desire of good men is knowledge.
Nothing is more fleeting than the years,
but he who sows virtue reaps honor.
Wrongfully men lament time's flight,
not perceiving that its period is sufficient; but good.
Were you to keep your body in accordance with virtue,
your desires would not be of this world.
Reprove a friend in secret but praise him before others.
He who suffers time to slip away
and does not grow in virtue
The more more one thinks about such a one
the sadder one becomes.
As a day well spent brings happy sleep,
so also a life well spent brings happy death.
In youth acquire such as will fortify you
against the deprevations of advanced age;
and if you're mindul that advanced age
has wisdom for its food
then you will exert yourself in youth
that your advanced years will not lack sustinance.
Paul and Timotheus, subjects of Jesus Christ [the Anointed One],
To all consecrated [set apart] in Messiah Jesus who live in Philippi
associated with those exercising oversight [mentors] and those
Grace unto you [May favor be yours], and peace, from God our
Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you [that is, for all
your remembrance of me],
Always in every prayer request on behalf of you all, making my
supplication with joy,
Because of your participation [your shared, cooperative effort]
in the Glad Tidings from the first day until now;
Being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good
work among you will carry forward with it to its conclusion
in the Day of Christ Jesus.
And it is only fitting of me that I should think this of you all,
for you have me in your heart, such that both in my chains
and in the Glad Tidings' defense and confirmation, ye are all
partakers along with me of unmerited favor [my fellow
associates in grace];
For God is my witness, how much I long for you all in the
tender affections of Messiah Jesus!
And this I pray: may your love abound yet more and more in
knowledge from above [heavenly wisdom] and in all discernment;
That ye might approve of such things as are excellent; that
ye might be of sun-proven purity and not a reproachful
stumbling block unto the Day of Christ;
Reaping [thereby] a fruitful harvest of worthy deeds [Being
fruitful in righteousness] through Messiah Jesus, unto the
glory and praise of God.
Now I would ye should know, brethren, that the things which
have befallen me have turned out rather for the advancement
of the Glad Tidings;
Such that my chains became openly manifest [plainly evident]
as being in Christ, not only to the entire Praetorian [the
Imperial Palace Guard], but to everyone else as well;
As for the brethren in the Lord, because of my shackles, the
greater part of them have grown in confidence and are much
more bold to speak the Word fearlessly.
Some indeed preach Christ [the Anointed One] even from envy
and rivalry; and some also from good will:
The former proclaim Messiah out of [sectarian ambition], not
sincerely, supposing to cause me additional suffering in my
But the latter out of love, seeing how I am set for the Gospel's
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or
in truth [hypocritically or sincerely], Christ is proclaimed;
and in this I rejoice; yea, and will rejoice,
For I know that this will result in my victorious deliverance
[my vindication] through your intercessory prayers and through
the abundant provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
According to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing
shall I be ashamed, but, with all boldness, as always, so now
also the Messiah will be glorified in my body, whether by my
life, or by my death.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
But if to I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful
labor on my part; yet which it I should prefer I refrain from
For I am hard pressed from both sides [constrained by
opposing considerations], having a desire to depart and so
be gathered unto Christ: which is far better:
But to persevere in the flesh [surviving physically] is more
needful for you. And with this conviction [being thus
I know I shall remain and continue together with you all,
for your furtherance and joy of faith; the result of my coming
to you again.
Only so comport yourself within the community as to be
worthy of the Glad Tidings of the Anointed One: that whether
I come and see you, or in my absence hear of your affairs,
that ye stand fast, in one spirit [spiritual unity], acting as
one man, striving together to the credit of the Gospel.
And in nothing by terror taken, which is to your antagonists
an evident token of their perdition [impending doom], but
of your salvation, and that of God;
For it hath been granted unto you on behalf of the Anointed
One, not only to believe on him, but also to endure suffering
for his sake,
Having the same struggle in which ye previously saw me
engaged, which now ye hear is continuing to be mine.
If there is any encouragement in Christ [any appeal which
would comfort you in the Anointed One], if any comforting
word of love, if any shared communion in the Spirit, if any
viscerally-felt affection [the bowels of compassion] and
sympathetic acts of mercy, then
Make my joy complete by coming to a meeting of the minds,
by sharing the same reverential love, agreeing together, in
unity of purpose;
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or from empty
[vainglorious] conceit, but, in humility [in lowliness of
mind], let each esteem others above oneself;
Not looking each of you only to his personal interests but
also to the concerns of others. Let this frame of mind
[way of thinking] be in you which was also in Messiah
Who, though subsisting in the form of God [possessing
God's image], was not led to account equality with God a
prize to be retained but emptied himself, receiving the
form of a subordinate [assuming a servant's status] being
constituted [shaped/molded] in the likeness of men;
And being found fashioned as a man, humbled himself,
and became obedient unto death, even death on a [cross-
membered] torture stake.
For which cause, God bestowed upon him a name the
which is above every name;
That at THE NAME of Jesus [by authority thereof]
every knee should bow [bend in obeisance], whether
of beings heavenly [celestial], earthly [terrestrial],
or of the netherworld [subterranean/the infernal realm],
And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD,
to the glory of God the Father.
Wherefore my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as
in my presence only, but much more in my absence, work
out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work
according to his good pleasure.
Do all that you do without murmuring and idle disputation;
That ye may be blameless and of unalloyed harmlessness,
God's children, without fault in the midst of a crooked and
perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as [heaven's]
luminaries in the world,
Holding forth the Word of Life; for then shall I have cause
to rejoice [to glory/to celebrate] in the Day of Christ, that
I did not run in vain, neither labored in vain.
Yea, and if I be as an outpoured libation of wine upon the
sacrificial offering of your faith, I rejoice and share my
joy with you all:
And in like manner ye too rejoice and share your joy with
But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus to you
shortly, and this will also do my own soul good when I
learn how you are faring;
For I have no one else likewise disposed, [of like mind]
who will be so genuinely concerned for your well-being.
For all seek their own rather than the things of Jesus
But ye know the proof of him, how as a son with a father,
he hath served along side of me in the Good Tidings.
Therefore I hope to send him along, so soon as I see how
it shall go with me.
But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come
And too, I thought it necessary to return to you
Epaphroditus, my brother and co-worker and fellow
soldier, but your messenger and minister to my need;
For he greatly yearneth for you all, and was filled with
heaviness, because ye had heard that he had been ill:
For indeed such was the gravity of his illness that he
nearly succumbed but God had mercy on him; and not
on him alone, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow
For that reason I have sent him along all the more
diligently, that when ye see him again, and rejoice, I
will be, thereby, the less sorrowful.
Receive him in the Lord with all joy; and hold such an one
as he in high repute:
Because for the work of the Anointed One he was nigh
unto death, his existence nearly forfeit, that your service
unto me might be fulfilled.
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To repeat the
same in writing, indeed is not irksome to me, but for you
it is a steadying precaution.
Beware of dogs, beware of those who work iniquity,
beware of the mutilators [those requiring circumcision for
For we are the circumcision who worship God in the Spirit,
and glory in Messiah Jesus, and have no confidence in the
Though I might also have confidence in the flesh: if anyone
else supposeth he might have confidence in the flesh, I
Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the
tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of Hebrews [linguistically,
an Hebraic speaker]; as touching the Law, a Pharisee:
Concerning zeal, persecuting the summoned-out
Community; as touching righteousness based on legal
performance [legalistic rectitude/legalism], blameless.
But even such things as were personally advantageous to
me, these am I led to count but loss for Messiah's sake.
Yea verily, I am led to regard all things as loss for the
surpassing excellency of the knowledge of Messiah Jesus,
my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things,
and view them as though discarded, for the sake of my
And may be found in him, not having mine own
legalistically justified righteousness [righteousness which
is of the Torah], but that which is through faith in the
Anointed One, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
That I may know him and the power of his resurrection,
and make common cause with him in his sufferings, being
conformed to his death:
If by any means, I might attain to the resurrection from
Not that I have already arrived, or were already fully mature:
but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold of that for which
also I was taken hold of by Messiah Jesus.
Brethren, I reckon not myself to have apprehended: but this
one thing I do, forgetting what is behind [that which is of
the past], and stretching forth to such things as lie ahead,
I press on toward the mark [the mark indicating the goal]
for the prize of God's upward call in Messiah Jesus.
Therefore let us, as many as are mature, be thus minded:
and if in anything ye are otherwise inclined, God will
reveal even this to you.
Nevertheless, regarding that to which we have already
attained, let us order our steps accordingly.
Brethren, join in adopting my example, and note
observantly those whose manner of walk is in keeping with
the pattern which we have set.
For many walk of whom I have told you often, and now
tell you even weeping, that they are hostile opponents of
Messiah's torture stake [the cross of Christ]:
Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and
whose glory is their shame, who are earthly-minded.
For our commonwealth [our enfranchisement] is found in
the heavens from whence also we expectantly await a
Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ:
Who will transform our lowly body [the body of our
humiliation], that it might be fashioned like unto his
glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able
even to subdue all things unto himself.
Therefore my brethren, beloved and longed for, my joy and
crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my beloved.
I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche: be of the same mind in
And I entreat thee also, true yoke-fellow Syzygus, join with
these women to assist them, who together joined me in the
struggle for the Good News, along with Clement and the
rest of my colleagues [my co-workers], whose names are
[enrolled] in The Book of Life.
Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say: Rejoice!
Let your forebearing moderation [your gentle magnanimity/
your temperate reasonableness] be known unto all men.
The Lord is nigh.
For naught be anxious [in no wise be worried], but always
[at all times], by prayer and supplication, with the giving of
thanks, let your requests be made known unto God;
And God's Peace, surpassing al understanding, shall fortify
[protect/garrison/secure] your minds in Messiah Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever is true, whatsoever is noble,
whatsoever is just, whatsoever is pure, whatsoever is
characterized by loveliness, which is gracious in the telling;
if there be any virtue, if any praise, upon such things as
these allow your thoughts to dwell.
And that which ye have learned and received, and heard
and seen in me, do [continue to practice]: and the God of
Peace shall be with you.
Not that I speak in respect to want: for I have learned, in
whatever state I am, therein to be content.
I know how both to be abased, and I know how to
abound: everywhere and in all circumstances I have
learned both the secret of being well-fed, or of
going hungry; having in abundance, or making do
I have always been able to cope through Christ who
Nevertheless, ye have done well in making common cause
with me in my distress [for identifying with me in my
And know ye also, O Philippians, that in the beginning of
the proclamation of the Glad Tidings, when I departed from
Macedonia, no summoned-out community shared with me
by way of giving and receiving [crediting and debiting],
save ye alone;
For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and twice again
[repeatedly] unto my need.
Not that I seek a gift: but I seek fruitful increase that may
accrue abundantly to your account. Indeed I have received
payment in full, and I abound:
I am fulfilled, having received from Epaphroditus the
wherewithal ye sent, a fragrant sacrifice, sweetly scented,
acceptable, well-pleasing unto God. But my God shall
fully meet [amply supply] your every need according
to his riches in glory in Messiah Jesus.
Now unto our God and Father be glory from the ages unto
the ages [age to age]. So be it affirmed [Amen.]
Greet everyone set apart in Messiah Jesus. The brethren
who are together with me send you their greetings.
All who are consecrated salute you, most particularly those
of the Emperor's own retinue [those of Caesar's household].
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. So be
HD Kailin, translator.