About seven years ago, my church was preparing for Watch Night, and they were inviting members to reenact various roles from the days leading up to the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Intuitively, I volunteered to play the role of Harriet Tubman.
During my study of her characteristics, it felt almost as if I had been overcome with her spirit. After finding the proper outfit to portray Harriet in the best light, I used a broom handle to create a shotgun. For those who don’t know the story of Harriet Tubman, she never lost a passenger and she would sometimes prod those who hesitated by threatening them with her gun to save their lives.
Though Harriet suffered after a major head injury when she was about 10 years old, she was able to function, and used her fainting spells to her advantage. Harriet had an inner knowing that someday she would be free. She learned about the Underground Railroad, a name given to a “safe path” that helped hide anyone who decided to travel to freedom. Harriet learned who were friends who would provide safe hiding places — whether they were inside, underneath the floor or in a barn, hidden in the midst of hay, she knew where to go.
Who were those who would help? They were abolitionists and Quaker allies who believed in freedom and helped out Harriet and others. These safe hiding places were always unnoticed. They dug holes in the ground that nobody could detect, and could hide in the belly of a carriage among corn, cotton or whatever was being sold. Abolitionist knew they had very sound plans and were always successful!
Harriet made it to freedom for herself. She could have created a new life and never have looked back. But that was not our Harriet Tubman. She said, “I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person now that I was free, there was such glory over everything, the sun came up like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in heaven.” She knew that she had to go back to Maryland to rescue other family members.
The enslaved would sing “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” — as a signal that Harriet was here for them. Slaves stayed together as they traveled the Underground Railroad, hiding along the way until they reached the North or Canada where they would be free.
The Quakers, especially Thomas Garrett, a well-known abolitionist, helped at least 3,000 slaves to escape to freedom. Moses became the name people called Harriet. Singing “Go Down Moses,” they knew Harriet was coming and going.
Over 15 years, Harriet conducted her Underground Railroad, and about 300 people became free. Thousands of others followed her instructions on their own road to freedom! The stories told, reveal her highly spiritual nature, as well as a grim determination to protect her assignment and those who aided them. She knew God would help her, that was faith.
In the late 1890s, due to her childhood head injury, she had successful brain surgery. Harriet spent her last years in a home called the Harriet Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Negros, which she established up in Auburn, New York. She died on March 10, 1913, after suffering from pneumonia and was buried in Fort Hill Cemetery with military honors near her New York home.
Playing the role of Harriet Tubman was truly a memorable experience for me. Today, there is a pull on my life as well. All we need to do as Christians is to listen when we hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. We came to this earth with a mission. Get your work done.
Scripture says: “I must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day. The night is coming, when no one can work.” (John 9:4 KJV)
Lyndia Grant is a speaker/writer living in the D.C. area. Her radio show, “Think on These Things,” airs Fridays at 6 p.m. on 1340 AM (WYCB), a Radio One station. To reach Grant, visit her website, www.lyndiagrant.com, email email@example.com or call 240-602-6295. Follow her on Twitter @LyndiaGrant and on Facebook.