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.
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!