Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her People and Her Struggle for Freedom The period of history leading up to the Civil War was one of turmoil and immense change- politically, socially, and economically- in the United States. With the war on the brink, many influential people arose during this time of conflict to take a stand and voice their opinions. During this period there was a particularly prominent, if not the most prominent, abolitionist woman by the name of Harriet Tubman.
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Tubman was responsible for the freedom of over 300 slaves through the Underground Railroad. Due to her bravery, leadership, and selflessness, Harriet Tubman was one of the most prolific leaders in the struggle to end American slavery.
Because she was a brave and determined woman, Harriet Tubman freed hundreds of slaves during her time on the Underground Railroad, even though this work came with great risk and danger. As one man by the name of Levi Coffin put it,“Abolitionists were very unpopular characters at that time, both in religious and political associations, and many who favored the principles of abolitionism lacked the moral courage to face public opinion,” (Coffin) Utilizing a highly intelligent and effective system called the Underground Railroad developed by abolitionists, Harriet Tubman was able to save hundreds of men, women, and children from slavery. There were great risks to her work, but Tubman saw it as her calling and was eager to help those who needed her.
She was so prolific, she was addressed as Moses, “Her name was Harriet Tubman, they said, but she was better known as “Moses.” A namesake of the biblical prophet who had brought his people out of bondage and into the Promised Land, Tubman had led more of her brethren out of Egypt—as she called the slaveholding South—than any other person, black or white, male or female, in American history,” (Scott King and Taylor). Tubman was known as “the Moses of her people,” because of her work leading others to freedom. As told by the Bible, “He (Moses) helped bring the Israelites out of slavery and leads them for the next four decades,”. We can see why she would be called this, as she led her people from slavery to freedom. Just as Moses led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, Tubman led black slaves out of slavery in the South.
Another thing that could be said about Harriet Tubman is that she was brave. “Harriet Tubman always carried a revolver on the Underground Railroad, and she was always ready to use it. “‘She could not read or write, but she had military genius,”’ a contemporary said of her,” () This further proves Tubman’s bravery and willingness to lay her life on the line to help her people. She was willing to sacrifice so much and out herself at the forefront of danger for the people she was freeing. In a letter written from Frederick Douglas, a prominent abolitionist leader at the time, to Harriet Tubman, Douglas praises Tubman’s character, comparing her to night and himself to day, referencing society’s failure to recognize Tubman and her achievements. He says, “The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day—you in the night.”
Frederick Douglas, another notable abolitionist throughout the civil war, acknowledges all the substantial work she has done. Praise from someone with a reputation of such a high caliber means that Tubman was not a lost figure in history. Her work being honored by a man with the status that Frederick Douglas further proves how influential and important Tubman was in the fight to end slavery and free those enslaved. One can also see how influential Harriet Tubman was by the bounty put on her head. If she had been some low level, unknown person, the price would have been much lower. However, “Tubman continued to help slaves toward freedom without any consideration of the consequences of being caught. The authorities and slave owners were so desperate to catch her that at one point there was a $40,000 reward for her capture,”. () Her work was so important and well known, there was an extremely high price, especially for the time period, on her head. To be exact, “ $40,000 in 1865 is equivalent in purchasing power to $601,521.47 in 2017,”. () Even with a bounty of over half a million dollars in today’s times, she did not stop her work. All of those opposed to freeing slaves were looking for her, yet she continued on. This amount of money recognizes how important she was to the abolitionist movement and how much of a leader she was.
Harriet Tubman was one of the most essential leaders in the movement to free slaves and a huge part of the Underground Railroad. During her time working, Tubman led over 300 slaves to freedom, including her own family members. She was called “Moses” because of her role as a guide in the struggle for freedom, and she wore this title proudly. The name Harriet Tubman was a name met with trust, respect, and admiration because of her daunting work. She never lost a passenger, and this fact was very important to her. Harriet Tubman gave hundreds of previously enslaved persons a second chance at a new life: one free of enslavement, and instead filled with hope.
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