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Harriet Tubman Essay, Research Paper
About 40 years before the Civil War began, a slave child, Araminta. Like others born into slavery, Araminta, who later become known as Harriet Ross Tubman, was never to know her birth date. Her parents, Harriet Greene and Benjamin Ross, couldn’t read or write. They didn’t even know the months of the year. They simply kept track by the seasons: summer, winter, harvest time, and planting time. They had no family records beyond their own memories to document the births of their 11 children. Also, Harriet never kept a diary or journal, so we do not know much about her childhood. Araminta, having her mother near her, was very fortunate. Some slave owners separated a mother from her children very soon after she stopped nursing. The most important fact about Harriet Tubman’s birth was not the date or the place, or even who her parents were. It was that she was, from the day she was born the property of Edward Brodas, who owned her parents. A child was a slave if either her mother or father was a slave.
Araminta’s master, Edward Brodas, wasn’t an evil man. He went to church, where he was taught that slavery was a natural part of life and that God had made white people better than black people. He was taught that because he was born with the privilege of being white and wealthy, it was his responsibility to provide those entrusted to his care. He didn’t feel sorry for his slaves as they worked all day in the hot sun, because he honestly believed that the Africans were better suited to such labor than he was. He believed that they had been created for just such hard, backbreaking work. When he heard his slaves singing as they worked among the tobacco plants, he liked to think to think it was a sign that they were happy.
Araminta later worked as an apprentice to Mrs. Cook who taught her how to weave. The lint from the weaver’s yarn made Araminta cough and sneeze. She wasn’t at all interested in becoming a weaver and having to sit all day in a workhouse, so she paid little attention to her work. Mrs. Cook later gave up on her, so Mr. Cook decided to try her at another job. So the Brodas decided to give Araminta a job of a babysitter, she was now a scrawny seven-year old who didn’t seem bright enough to follow the simplest instructions. Her master probably thought he was lucky to get anything at all for her. So Araminta was put into the woman’s wagon without a word of explanation and driven off. After a while, the wagon stopped beside the woman’s house. She had never been in her masters’ house before. The woman’s house wasn’t very fine. It had a wooden floor and several rooms, including a parlor that was furnished with tables, chairs, and oil lamps. Araminta had never seen such nice things.
Apparently her new mistress, Miss Susan, had never had a servant before, because she seemed to have no understanding of her own responsibility toward the child. Her most important duty was caring for the baby. Many years later Harriet said, “I was so little that I had to sit on the floor and have the baby on my lap. That baby was always on my lap except when it was asleep or its mother was feeding it.” Araminta tended the baby all day and at night she was expected to keep it from crying by rocking its cradle while Miss Susan slept. Whenever the baby’s crying awakened its mother, she would lash Araminta with the cowhide whip she kept beside her bed. The whip did more than sting; it left scars on the child’s neck and back. Sixty years later, those scars were still visible.
Later the woman took Araminta back to the Brodas and she was put to another job. This time she had to work in the fields. She was still very small but her new master expected her to do heavy work. He made her chop wood and load it onto his wagon. If she was unable to lift a heavy load, he whipped her. She labored in this field, doing the work of an adult. She had still never worn a pair of shoes, but she had outgrown the townlinen shirt of childhood and now wore a long dress. When she was 11 years old, as was the custom among slaves, she started wearing a bright cotton bandanna wound around her head to indicate that she was no longer a child. She was no longer known by her “basket name.” Now she would be called Harriet.
Harriet later continued to live and work as a slave. Because she was unable to read, her only contact with the world outside of the plantation was by word of mouth. Harriet had heard of the prophet and his uprising. She had heard of his hanging. She also heard that there were some white people right in Dorchester County who helped runaway slaves. They were called Quakers. She knew that too, that by following the North Star far enough, she could reach freedom. She thought about running away, but she didn’t know how to go about it, or how to reach the people who could help her. So she did the work she could, she was as strong as a man was. She could lift heavy loads and work long hours at any job she was given.
In 1849, Harriet Tubaman, although she knew nothing about geography, made plans to escape. In fact, she knew the names of only two northern states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. She could not have read a map if she had been given one. Her only compass was the North Star. Harriet’s first plan for escape included three of her brothers. Since her master’s death, rumors had been circulating that she and her brothers would be sold to the next slave trader and taken to the south. At first her brothers were interested in her plan, but they grew more and more nervous as the time to escape approached. Too many things could go wrong, they thought. It would take only one person to betray them. They would be lucky to get out of the county. As soon as some one discovered that they were missing, the whole county would find out. The brothers didn’t think they had a chance, but Tubman thought being taken south would make an escape even harder. They would have father to travel. But she successfully escaped and helped many other slaves escape also. Harriet Tubman died
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