I remember reading a picture book about Harriet Tubman in second grade and being fascinated by her life. It was hard for me to imagine a world where freedom was not guaranteed for all, and this was the first time I had to confront the fact that I was pretty lucky to grow up in the time and place that I did. I thought, what courage it must have taken for her to go back to where she could have been made a slave again, in order to save other people. I was also amazed at all the strategies she knew, like running through creeks to throw off her scent trail and remembering that moss grows on the north side of a tree, thus pointing the way towards freedom.

There was a stream running through my backyard, and I sometimes pictured myself slogging through the water, scared for my life and hearing dogs barking all around me. At other times, I would go outside and look up at the Big Dipper and wonder how Harriet had managed to use only the stars to lead her people north. To this day I wonder if I would have been brave enough to do what she did, to not only speak up against injustice but also risk my freedom and my life to help others. I hope that if such a situation ever arises, I will be able to fully stand up for my beliefs.

-Miriam Musco

For more information, check out PBS’s Africans in America site or New York History Online.

Check back tomorrow to learn about a heroine who embodies strong girlhood – in cartoon form!

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