because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Harriet Tubman

Araminta "Minty" Ross was born a slave in Maryland in the early 1820's, but she had a great role model to teach her how to resist her oppressors: her in-your-face woman mother who refused to give up her baby son when the man holding them both in bondage tried to sell him. Knowing she could easily be to whipped to death for her insubordination, she threatened to "split the skull" of anyone entering her shanty to take him and then hid him out until the whole idea of selling him just blew over.

Perhaps her desire to follow in her mother's footsteps is the reason Minty took her mother's name when she married a free Black man named John Tubman, but in any case, follow she did and always had. In fact, she started getting in trouble with racist White folks as a young girl, which once got her hit in the head with a two-pound chunk of metal, causing seizures for the rest of her life. But she didn't let a little thing like falling asleep in the middle of a sentence no matter where she was slow her down.

She set herself free -- leaving her husband behind -- when she was in her late twenties, returning at great risk multiple times over the next decade to rescue relatives, friends, and even strangers. "I freed hundreds of slaves," she later said, adding, "I could have freed thousands more if they had known they were slaves."

Her personal best moment among many might have been when the Union Army enlisted her aid in organizing and carrying out the Combahee River Raid in South Carolina. With General Tubman's able leadership, a whole string of plantations were burned to the ground, thousands of dollars in food and supplies were seized, and more than seven hundred slaves carrying soup pots, pigs and their children boarded ships for the promised land -- all without loss of a single life on either side.

Lest we imagine that this in-your-face woman gave up all joy and only suffered through her life, it's important to note that, at nearly fifty-years-old, Tubman married a second time -- a man twenty years younger than her -- and they spent the next two decades together happily raising an adopted baby girl. She was also busy stumping for women's right to vote during that same period, of course, since an in-your-face woman often has trouble not being in anyone's face. On the other hand, that can make her pretty attractive to a certain type of man.

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