Archives for: October 2006, 06


Permalink 07:00:00 am, by Email , 1090 words   English (CA)
Categories: One Dozen Canadian Heroes

Third of Twelve: Harriet Tubman Davis

For the next Ten Fridays, I'm doing blog posts about Canadian heroes of History... some you may have heard of... others you may not know... in under 800 words (not including my usual last note), I'm going to TRY and introduce them to you as best I can...

So far, I've done posts about...

- Crowfoot
- Charles-Michel d'Irumberry de Salaberry


Harriet Tubman Davis

I can think of no way to put this, but to quote the first bit from a MARVELLOUS book called "Her Story - Women from Canada's Past" by Susan E. Merritt... Thank you, Ms. Merritt... your books are in all my stepdaughter's bookshelves.

Harriet woke in her seat with a start. The two white men across the aisle were talking about her.

"Wonder if that's the woman they're lookin' for?" said the one. He pointed to a wanted poster in his hand.

"Let's grab her," whispered the other. "Look at the size of the reward. Says here they'll pay $12,000 for the capture of Harriet Tubman."

Harriet coolly reached into her shabby bag and pulled out a book. She opened it and sat very still, pretending to read. Across the aisle, the men looked disappointed. "That can't be the woman," one of them muttered. "The one we want can't read or write."

Harriet Tubman rode the rest of the train trip in peace. "Guess I'm holding this book the right way up," she chuckled to herself.

Meet Harriet Tubman, born into slavery in Maryland in 1820.

The question you might wonder about is why $12,000 was offered for her capture... at a time when $12,000 was literally a "King's Ransom"?

Harriet was one of the most famous conductors of the Underground Railroad... that trail of escaped slaves that made their way North into Canada and freedom from the fields and homes in the Southern United States.

Being a conductor was a very dangerous business. It would mean certain and painful death if discovered, but such was Harriet's hatred of slavery that she took the risks.

She started early and at the age of fifteen, she assisted a slave to escape. For her efforts, an overseer tried to crush her skull with an iron weight knocking her unconscious for several days. When she recovered, she had a deep dent in her forehead and suffered with blinding headaches and a form of narcolepsy for the rest of her life. These sudden blackouts could happen anytime and she would fall asleep in mid-sentence and even while standing up.

This didn't deter her from helping others after she escaped herself.

Once free in the North, she helped many and even took on jobs to earn money... with which she purchased things like her first gun to assist her with her journeys.

"Nobody asked whether I was a man or woman when they put an axe in my hand or tied me by the waist to a mule," Harriet once declared, "I've been doing man's work all my life. I'm not afraid."

Harriet became the most famed and succesful conductors during those terible times... rescuing family after family, slave after slave, ending her dangerous trips in what became her home, St. Catharines, Ontario.

Farewell old master,
This is enough for me,
I'm going straight to Canada,
Where coloured men are free.

Despite the way being filled with slave hunters looking for fugitives, Harriet made the journey South and then North to freedom with refugees around eleven times... taking a route filled with hardships... having to wade through icy water... wandering through darkened woods... using disguises and forged documents to bring her "passengers" to freedom.

"If I could have convinced more slaves that they were slaves, I could have freed thousands more."

If any of them turned to cease their journey, Harriet would pull out her gun, level it at their head and say, "Dead men tell no tales. Go on or DIE!" because, had someone given up and was caught, they'd most likely be "pressed" for information to stop the freedom train to Canada.

Harriet figured, with some evidence, that had she or any conductors been caught, they'd be burned alive as an example to other slaves not to attempt a run or to assist their people in heading North.

Harriet's fame even spread through the slaves in the South where she was known as "Black Moses" for leading her people to freedom and safety.

At the outbreak of the American Civil War, she returned to America and joined with the Union Army to work as a nurse, scout, and spy. During this time, she became the only woman in America to plan and conduct an an expedition against the enemy. Known as the Combahee River Raid, it was a resounding success.

At the end of the war, when slavery was abolished and the need for the railroad ended, Harriet moved from St. Catherines to Auburn, New York near many of those she helped to freedom.

She married Nelson Davis in 1869 who was in the 8th Colored Infantry Volunteers during the war, but his health was poor and he passed away in 1890.

She struggled to make ends meet by selling vegetables door-to-door that she herself grew.

An author named Sarah Brandford wrote a book of her exploits in 1869 which gained the attention of Queen Victoria and in 1897 sent Harriet gifts of a black shawl and a silver Diamond Jubilee medal.

She remained active raising funds for schools for black children and was even an early suffragette and worked towards gaining the right for women to vote.

A month before she died, she said to a friend...

"Tell the women to stand together."

Harriet Tubman Davis passed away on March 10th, 1913... she was ninety-three...

An extraordinary woman of courage and conviction... she fought through oppression, slavery, disabilities, a lack of education and made a huge impact on many lives... and the history of North America itself.

"I never lost a passenger."

Harriet Tubman Davis

Historica History Minute on the Underground Railroad



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October 28th, 2009

See the "latest post" on the left here... I've decided to concentrate on other work so this blog is kinda done for me... THANKS kindly to my friends and regular readers... and as you'll note, I am still loitering in the blogsphere... and I'm still online... and I honestly haven't given up hope that we will get our dream bus one day! (We've just gotten REALLY quiet about it...)

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