It’s fitting that “Harriet Tubman Day” falls on March 10 each year — during Women’s History Month and two days after International Women’s Day, the annual celebration of women’s economic, political and social achievements.
Tubman, the abolitionist and heroine conductor of the Underground Railroad established to lead African-American slaves to freedom in the North, was honored with a commemorative day through congressional joint resolution in March 1990. After escaping slavery in 1849, Tubman made 19 trips between the North and South to bring hundreds of slaves to freedom, the resolution states.
Many children’s books have been written about Tubman’s legacy, but few biographies have explored the events that preceded her abolition work. Her birth name was Araminta Ross, given to her around 1822, in Maryland, according to biographer Beverly Lowry, who released the book “Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life” in 2007. Tubman belonged to an unsuccessful farmer, Edward Brodess, who sold and hired out his slaves to avoid bankruptcy.
At age 26, when she learned Brodess was trying to sell her, she began making plans to escape. By then, she had married and taken the name Tubman. When she eventually crossed into freedom, she took the name Harriet, after her mother.
Here are quotations said to be Tubman’s own words, some of them spoken to her original biographer, Sarah Hopkins Bradford:
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
“I grew up like a neglected weed — ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it."
“I would fight for my liberty so long as my strength lasted, and if the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.”
“I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land.”
“We saw the lightning and that was the guns; and then we heard the thunder and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped.”
“I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person now that I was free. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in heaven.”
“I freed a thousand slaves; I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”