In my Father’s House are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:2,3 NKJV
It was unlikely a freed slave would ever reenter the southern borders of their own choice once they escaped. The exception to that rule was Harriet Tubman. Born sometime between February 1820 and March 1822 on the Thompson Plantation in Dorchester County, Maryland, Araminta Ross was hired out to another owner around six or seven years of age as a nanny to a sickly infant. It was then she experienced numerous beatings.
Eventually she became a field hand and received a near fatal blow to the head intended for another slave. She was deeply touched spiritually about this time and would often break out in praise to God.
In 1849, now married to a free black man, John Tubman, changing her name to Harriet, she began a prayer vigil for her new master’s soul. Upon hearing he planned to sell her she changed strategies and began praying saying, “Lord if you ain’t gonna change that man’s heart then kill him, so he won’t do any more mischief.” When her master died not long after she felt guilty of her prayers and realized the answer only exacerbated her conditions. Believing her master’s wife would sell her she escaped to the north.
She gained confidence with her freedom and masterminded the escape of several family members when she learned they were being auctioned for sale in Baltimore. From her Philadelphia base she planned and carried out numerous successful escapes of slaves even after the Fugitive Slave Law was passed in 1850, including her parents. She planned flights in the winter when nights were longer and fewer people would be out. Using spiritual hymns she concocted codes that kept the fugitives safe and aware of potential capture.
Tubman’s legendary fearlessness and determined faith earned her the rubric, Moses. “Harriet seems to have a special angel to guard her journey of mercy. . .and confidence God will preserve her from harm in all her perilous journeys,” said Underground Railroad comrade Thomas Garrett. “I never met with any person of any color who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken direct to her soul,” he added.
With the onset of the Civil War she entered a new role reconnoitering for the Union Army. In 1863 she helped Colonel James Montgomery capture Jacksonville, Florida and played a significant part in the famous Combahee River Raid. June 2, 1863 she guided three steamboats past Confederate torpedo mines to the South Carolina shore where over 700 slaves scrambled aboard to freedom, which made her the first woman to lead an armed assault during the Civil War.
In 1899 Congress awarded Tubman a 20 dollar per month pension as she approached 80 years of age. March 10, 1913 Harriet Tubman died in a room in the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn, New York, a residence for the elderly she had founded years prior. “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am you also may be,” she quoted from John 14:2 in her last breath. Just words for a woman who had prepared a place for freedom, comfort, and security for humans held captive to slavery during her journey on earth.
Lord, I embrace my mission with the awareness it will be fraught with danger, the path lined with detours that appear less demanding, but, charged with a mandate I will persevere until you call me home and only then will I lay down my mantle.
Trailblazers, being dauntless, push aside danger that would prevent others less courageous and push on resisting any urges to quit before the job is done and rest only when the door to eternity is opened to them. -Dennis L. Kutzner