I'm Shirley Griffith.
VOICE TWO:Graphic Image
And I'm Ray Freeman with theSpecial English program, People In America. Every week we tell thestory of someone important in the history of the United States.Today we tell about Harriet Tubman, an African-American woman whofought slavery and oppression.
Historians say Harriet Tubman was born in the yearEighteen-Twenty. Nobody really knows. In the United States in theNineteenth Century the birth of slaves was not recorded.
We do know that Harriet Tubman was one of the bravest women everborn in the United States. She helped hundreds of people escape fromslavery on the Underground Railroad. This was a system that helpedslaves escape from the South to states where slavery was banned.
Because of her work on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubmanwas called Moses. In the Bible, Moses was the leader of the Jewishpeople enslaved in Egypt. He brought his people out of slavery tothe promised land.
Harriet Tubman died in Nineteen-Thirteen. All her life, shealways tried to improve life for African-Americans.
From a very early age, Harriet knew how slaves suffered. Herparents were slaves. They belonged to Edward Brodas, a farmer in themiddle Atlantic state of Maryland.
Harriet's parents tried to protect her and their ten otherchildren as much as they could. There was little they could do,however. Slaves were treated like animals. They could be sold at anytime. Families often were separated.
Slave children were not permitted to act like children. By thetime Harriet was three years old, Mister Brodas ordered her to carrynotes from him to other farmers. Some of these farmers lived as faras fifteen kilometers away. Harriet was punished if she stopped torest or play.
When Harriet was six years old, the Brodas family sent her towork for another family who lived near their farm. While there,Harriet was infected with the disease Measles. Even though she wassick, she was forced to place and remove animal traps in an icyriver. She was sent home when she became dangerously ill.
Harriet's mother took very good care of her. The child survived.Then she was sent to work in the Brodas's house.
Her owners never gave her enough to eat. One day she was workingin the kitchen. She was looking at a piece of sugar in a silvercontainer when Missus Brodas saw her. Harriet ran away in fear. Shewas caught and beaten very severely. Her owners decided that Harrietnever would make a good worker in the house. She was sent to thefields.
Harriet's parents were sad. They worked in the fields and theyknew how difficult it was to survive the hard work. But workingoutside made Harriet's body strong. And she began to learn thingsfrom the other slaves. These things one day would help her lead herpeople to freedom.
Harriet heard about Nat Turner. He had led an unsuccessfulrebellion of slaves. She heard about other slaves who had run awayfrom their cruel owners. She was told that they had traveled by theUnderground Railroad.
They did not escape by using a special train. Instead of a realtrain, the Underground Railroad was a series of hiding places,usually in houses of people who opposed slavery. These were secretplaces that African Americans could stop at as they escaped from theSouth to the North. As Harriet heard stories of rebellion, shebecame more of a rebel.
One day when Harriet was fifteen she was at a local store. Aslave owner entered and threatened a young boy who was his slave. Atfirst, the slave refused to move. Then he ran for the door.
Harriet moved in front of the young man. The slave owner reachedfor a heavy weight. He threw it at his slave. He missed. Instead,the heavy metal object hit Harriet in the head.
Harriet almost died. Months passed before she could get out ofbed. For the rest of her life, she carried the mark of a deep woundon her head. And she suffered from blackouts. She would suddenlylose consciousness as though she had fallen asleep.
Mister Brodas felt he would never get any good work out ofHarriet. So he decided to sell her.
Harriet thought of a way to prevent this. Each time she was shownto someone who might buy her, she acted as if she were fallingasleep. After awhile, Mister Brodas gave up hope of selling Harriet.He sent her back to the fields. She dreamed of freedom while pickingvegetables and digging in the fields.
In Eighteen Forty-Four, at about age twenty-four, she married afree black man named John Tubman. By now, Harriet was sure shewanted to try to escape. It would be very dangerous. Slaves who werecaught often were killed or almost beaten to death. Harriet knew shemust wait for just the right time.
Suddenly, in Eighteen-Forty-Nine, the time came. Mister Brodasdied. His slaves probably would be sold to cotton farmers furtherSouth. The situation there would be even worse.
John Tubman tried to make Harriet forget about running away. Hewas free. Why should he make a dangerous trip with a woman breakingthe law? Harriet decided that her marriage to John must end.
Harriet heard that she was to be sold immediately. She knew sheneeded to tell her family that she was leaving. She began to sing,softly at first, then louder. She sang the words, "I'm sorry toleave you...I'm going to the promised land." Her family understood.
Harriet ran to the home of a white woman who had promised tohelp. This woman belonged to the Quakers, a religious group whichhated slavery. The Quaker woman told her how to reach another homewhere she could hide.
Harriet went from house to house that way on the UndergroundRailroad. Each place was a little closer to the eastern state ofPennsylvania. Slavery was banned there. Once she was hidden underhay that had been cut from the fields. Another time, she wore men'sclothing. Finally, she crossed the border into Pennsylvania.
Later, she told a friend, "I felt like I was in heaven."
Now that Harriet was free, she did not forget the hundreds ofother slaves back in Maryland. During the next ten years, she led amuch expanded Underground Railroad. She freed her parents, hersister, brothers and other family members. She found a home for herparents in Auburn, New York.
Harriet traveled back and forth eighteen times, helping aboutthree-hundred slaves escape into free territory. She became anexpert at hiding from slave hunters. At one time, anyone findingHarriet was promised forty-thousand-dollars for catching her -- deador alive. The people she helped called her Moses. She had rescuedthem from slavery just as the biblical Moses rescued the Jews.
Harriet found another way to fight slavery after the Civil Warbegan in Eighteen-Sixty-One. Seven southern states decided toseparate from the United States, mainly over the issue of slavery.The northern states refused to let the United States of Americabreak apart.
After fighting began, Harriet Tubman went into enemy territory tospy for the North. She also served as a nurse. After four years ofbloody fighting, the North won the war.
President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves inEighteen-Sixty-Three. There was no longer any need for Harriet to beMoses.
After the fighting ended, Harriet Tubman returned to Auburn, NewYork. She married a man named Nelson Davis. This could have been thebeginning of a few quiet years of family life for her.
But she kept working. She traveled and gave speeches to raisemoney for better education for black children. She also worked forwomen's rights and housing. And she sought help for old men andwomen who had been slaves.
Harriet Tubman died in Nineteen-Thirteen. She was aboutninety-three years old. By that time, she was recognized as anAmerican hero. The United States government gave a funeral withmilitary honors for the woman known as Moses.
This program was written by Jeri Watson. I'm Shirley Griffith.
I'm Ray Freeman. Listen again next week at this time for anotherPEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.