What's the Word?
The Underground Railroad was a secret network of people, African American and white, who opposed slavery and risked their lives to help fugitive slaves to safety and freedom in the North. The phrase is strongly associated with Harriet Tubman, who made 19 trips into the South to liberate over 300 slaves. There were similar operations in place long before Tubman escaped from slavery in 1849; Quakers from Pennsylvania and New Jersey were particularly active in helping fugitive slaves get the assistance and protection they needed.
Harriet Tubman now ranks as one of the nation's authentic heroes as a result of her heroic work in the rescue effort known as the Underground Railroad. She was hailed by many as the Moses of the middle nineteenth century.
By risking her life to shepherd others to freedom, Tubman helped to lay the nation's moral cornerstone.
In later life, Tubman recalled that she prayed for her physically abusive master using the following words: “Oh, dear Lord, change that man's heart and make him a Christian.”
When she received word that the master planned to send her to a chain gang, she amended her prayer slightly: “Lord, if you ain't never going to change that man's heart, kill him, Lord, and take him out of the way, so he won't do no more mischief.”
Shortly after she made this appeal to God, the master did in fact die suddenly. Tubman was sick with grief for some time after this episode, but eventually consoled herself, concluding, as she recalled the event, that “I couldn't pray for him no more.”
To Learn More About Harriet Tubman …
Visit www.nyhistory.com/harriettubman/life.htm for a detailed biography.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to African-American History © 2003 by Melba J. Duncan. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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