Harriet Tubman (born c. 1822 – died March 10, 1913) was an abolitionist, distinguished as a freedom fighter and conductor on the Underground Railroad during the American Civil War period. Born into slavery as Araminta Green, she suffered severe beatings, whippings, and even a blow to her head by a metal weight meant to hit another slave that struck her instead. The blow led to spells of dizziness, pain, and excessive sleepiness that she coped with throughout her life; it was also the beginning of vivid intuitions and dreams that she felt came from God.
Tubman escaped slavery in 1849 and immediately turned around to rescue her family. She was called "Moses" by the 70 or so family members and friends she helped to escape from enslavement in Maryland to free states or to Canada. But her service did not stop with these 13 highly dangerous trips. She served with the U.S. Army as nurse, spy, and soldier. Her social action extended to women's rights, elder care, and the provision of crisis support, such as helping freed slaves find work. A devout Christian, she believed that, "Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding."
In response to her request for a letter of recommendation, renowned abolitionist Frederick Douglass wrote:
"You ask for what you do not need when you call upon me for a word of commendation. I need such words from you far more than you can need them from me, especially where your superior labors and devotion to the cause of the lately enslaved of our land are known as I know them. … The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown — of sacred memory — I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have."
"There was one of two things I had a right to, liberty, or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other; for no man should take me alive."
— Harriet Tubman in Sarah H. Bradford's Harriet, the Moses of Her People
"I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can't say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger."
— Harriet Tubman at a suffrage convention in New York, 1896
"God’s time [Emancipation] is always near. He set the North Star in the heavens; He gave me the strength in my limbs; He meant I should be free."
— Harriet Tubman to Ednah Dow Cheney, circa 1859
In 1865, Harriet Tubman told Ednah Dow Cheney, "I prayed to God to make me strong and able to fight, and that's what I've always prayed for ever since." Today — and from now forward, if you can — pray to be made strong to fight for liberty and equality for all people.