She wasn’t a very impressive woman. She was about five feet tall, in her late 30’s, and wore cheap clothes. She couldn’t read, she couldn’t write, and if she were to smile at you, you would see that her top two front teeth were missing.
She lived alone. She had been married but left her husband when she was 29. She gave him no warning. One day he simply woke up and she was gone.
As for her employment, it varied. Most of the time she took domestic jobs in small hotels: scrubbing floors, making up rooms, and cooking. But a couple of times a year she would disappear for a while, the come back broke looking for work again. When she was working she seemed to work hard, but she was also known to fall asleep on occasion, even if she was in the middle of a conversation. She claimed it was the result of a blow to the head during a fight when she was a teenager.
The woman’s name: Harriett Tubman.
Harriett was born in Maryland in 1820 and started life as a slave. When she was 13 she tried to stop a white overseer from beating another slave, and she took a blow to her head that nearly killed her. Her recovery took months.
When she was 24 she married a man named John Tubman, a free black man. But whenever she talked about escaping to freedom in the north he wouldn’t hear of it. In fact, he said that if she ever tried to leave he would turn her in himself. So when she decided to take her chances and head north, she did so alone, without a word to him. But as far as she was concerned she had a right to one of two things: liberty or death. If she couldn’t have one she’d take the other.
Harriett made her way to Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, by use of the Underground Railroad… a secret network of free blacks, white abolitionists, and Quakers who helped slaves on the run. The year was 1849.
But the next year, Harriett risked it all when she decided to go back. You see, Harriett had vowed to go back and bring her family out, too. So she started a new life as an Underground Railroad Conductor… someone who would find and guide out slaves with the help of sympathizers along the way.
So every summer and winter, she would work, trying to scrape together the money she would need for her trips to the South. And every spring and fall, she would risk her life by heading south and returning with more people.
Over the course of the next ten years, Harriett guided out more than 300 people, including many of her own family. She made 19 trips south in all, plus another 11 delievering slaves into Canada, earning the nickname “Black Moses”, because of her ability to go into the land of captivity and bring so many of her own people out of slavery’s bondage.
Jesus did the same thing for you.