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The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, September 29, 1907, Image 14

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THE MOSES OF HER PEOPLE
• 'LL. brain you if I catch you!**
•• I Really, the negro should have
f been trimming the hedge in
stead of sleeping underit. But
"plantation negroes were what . they
were, and their masters, some of them,
•R"er*» not particularly philosophical In
the days of 1527. So across the wide
lawn sped a terrified African, and, hot
In his footsteps, club in hand, sprinted
a wrathful white man.
In and out among the old flowering
Fhrubs of the old Maryland house lawn
they dodged. Now the white man .'
leaped a pansy bed to corner his quarry,
jiow the quarry crossed forbidden seed
grass. He was trying to gain _the com
parative safety of the negro quarters
near the salt marshes of the Chesa
peake bay Inlet, there to hide until the
economic absurdity of braining a $500
negro shou'.d appeal to this enraged
owner. But the white man was young,
resourceful and speedy, and things,
looked bad for economics. , Bit by bit
the panting negro was driven toward
an angle of the stable yard wall, where
escape was hopeless, and a battered
skull the one safe bet.
At this stas;e of the proceedings and
heading directly across the path of the
slave owner appeared a small black fig- '
tire In a calico slip. She was running
at top speed, head down and pigtails
flying, but two white crescents In the
shadows of the dark unlovely face
showed •where two black eyes were
turned upon the onrushing white man..
He would never swerve for a negro, she
knew, and, calculating her speed to a
certainty, the black child butted him
full iv the ribs and bowled him over
upon his .ancestral grass. Wild with
rage, he was on his feet Instantly and,
seizing a rusty wagon wrench which
lay at hand, he hurled it unerringly at
the girl's head and left her senseless
on the lawn. But the shirking Tiegro
escaped to the "quarters."
Such was Harriet Tubman as a child
and such the ibc'denT which made this
story worth the telling. When the lit
tle negro girl recovered sufficiently
from the Injury to her brain to resume
her tasks upon the plantation she was
s>rone to strange dreams, which came
.to her suddenly while -working or while
conversing with her fellow slaves. In
'one of these she caw a ship's deck
•with black men in murderous revolt
land white men lying in crimson stains
Jupon the flooring. In another she was
ton a ship at night ane a negro woman,
iclasplng a child to her bosom, crept
jfrom below and leaped Into the sea.
jThe old mammies to whom she told
'these dreams were wont to nod know
ingly and say. **I roeson youse one o'
dera "Shantees/ chile." For they knew
the tradition of the unconquerable
Ashantee blood, which tn a slave made
•him a thorn in the aide of the planter
or can# grower whoso property he be-
Jcame, so that few of that race were In
'bondage. At this time also Harriet be
igan to develop a wonderrul gift of pre
iscience and an abnormal cunning, so
\u25a0that many of her dreams soon or later
jcarae startingly true, and she grew to
.have a mysterious hold- upon those of
her race with whom she came in con
tact. The white people on the planta
tion thought she was Tialf-witted — a
theory she did not seek to disturb.
'Her Strength Marvelous
As Harriet grew older she""became a
specimen of physical woman
hood, and before she was 19 years old
*rras a match for thft strongest man on
Jtjie plantation of the new master to
;wh.om she now belonged. He would
.often exhibit her feats of strength . to'"
,hls friends as oneof the sights of his
.place. She could lift huge barrels of
' produce and draw a loaded stone boat
like an ox.
And so life went on for Harriet, not
unhappily, as slave life went, and broken
only by a long Illness, brought on, per
haps, by these drains upon her physi
cal stamina. It was during this period
that tHe religious fervor of her nature
awakened to an . extent which glorified
the everyday deeds of . her. remarkable
career Into: wuat she conceived to be
the wishes of her Maker. She performed
her- duties toward her master faith
fully, but in tho caverns of her un
tutored mind there ever burned the fire
which was the heritage of her. warlike
and liberty loving lineage.
At last the day came when this mas
ter died and there: were heavy hearts In
tho cabins of the negro quarters. .The
men who came in from the Celds at
dusk no longer romped -with their off
spring, and the tinkle of the banjo
twilight was heard no more by those
on the veranda of the "big house"* on
jThn hm^ffirMWPEl v- \u25a0 - v
, It was not that they loved. the mas
ter that this was bo, but because the
whißper had gone forth, among them
that they were to be sold "down south,"
and they knew the bitterness of : the
separations that must come. All re
fused but Harriet Tubman. Her soar
ing spirit saw In the coming dissolution
the beginning of a dream to be some
day surely realized. She conceived then,
that she was, in the nature of things,
the property of no one but herself. '
Many evenings now_ the silence which
brooded over the "quarters" was broken
by strange -words to a familiar negro
chant— words which hinted • dimly | of
the freedom which might be theirs if
-\u25a0\u25a0»•" \u25a0 " . -,-;. :\u25a0\u25a0. \u25a0,< * \u25a0
• - -
her people would but follow her. Over
many a flickering fire old mammies
repeated the mysterious call of Har
riet's chant loud enough that, their
neighbors might recognize the thougnt
that was uppermost In all: their minds.
This was the beginning' of Harriet's
leadership of her people. But they had
not the^blood of the Ashantee/. and de
spite her encouragement and cunningly
ordered plans" for a night, of exodus to
the north only her two brothqigs,ven
tured forth with her, and even ; they,
when barely half the, night was gone,
slunk back upon their tracks and were
like -the rest. 5 \u25a0="/. ':'\u25a0, '\u25a0'\u25a0\u25a0"\u25a0\u25a0'"\u25a0
Friendless, penniless, unlettered, dar
ing the suspicion of every "eye that
might' chance to see a negfess plodding;
northward, Harriet began 'the Journey
that was to be an" epoch In the history
of her race. Traveling at night by
every road that led toward tha cluster
of stars, she' knew were, over: her
"promised land." .sleeping: by day in
the depths of swamp and forest; beg
ging her food with incredible instinct
at houses where lived the foes of slav
ery; simulating with matchless art' the
dialects; of districts remote from "her
own," this girl of 20 crossed at last
the line that marked human . bondage
in America. Standtngon the brow of,
a hill that looked down on the waving
fields of Pennsylvania, -she stretched
her I arms toward the sun and said to
them, "You are rrilne .now, ,and you
shall work for me," adding uncoa-"
Bclously in, her heart, "and my people."
' She had not long to wait for employ
ment, and wnces came to her. :Deny
ing herself all comforts, ; she hoarded
every, cent . One morning, after a.- year
had passed; she wss missing from her
tasks. In another hiorith on a. planta
tion In the land of her bondage thero
was heard # the chant hlntlnar mysterl-;
ously at farewells and freedom. * Th«
news of her successful flight had gone
abroad through 'all Dixie ;and many
were longing to; follow in her footsteps,
needing only : the \u25a0 genius of her j leader
ship. * In \u25a0 another, month^.a bewildered
little band of dark refugees had crossed
tho line with Harriet.- I'
From* this time on : she made ID : tn» ,
vaslons of: the south, each" time return
ing safely to the "north; on her: chosen
mission. Indeed, to anticipate our story
a little, she had before the outbreak 'of,
the civil war . led to ; freedoms and r. in
most cases to employment more than
300 slaves. • " /, ': : '":."'• -V
It. now came to pass that all through
Virginia. rewards were offered for the
apprehension' of the negro woman who
was denuding. the fields of their labor
ers and the cabins of their, human live- 1
stock. Bat she was c not : deterred *,by
this, and with growing confidence're
peated her, excursions as ; often I . as .her
• hoardings made them * poss lblc
Heir -. methods "\ were masterful. On
"some darkly propitious night there
' would be breathed about the " negro
quarters ot a plantation -a word that
she had come to lead :them forth. At
midnight she would' stand waiting,. In
tho depths of woodland or timbered
. swamp, and : stealthily, "•. ohe by \u25a0 one, : her
fugitives -would creep ;to the- 1 ren
dezvous. She intrusted ! her plans to
but 'few of the party, confiding only in
one .or two of the ; more - intelligent
negroer. Sho knew-her path well hy
this' time, and they followed her un
erring guidance without "question. >
She' assumed : the authority arid: en-,
forced the discipline "of : . a>: military^.'
dt-spot. Strapped \u25a0' to {her broad K back
was a basket laden with babies in tho
drowsy depths •; of .; paregoric. In h*>r
hand' was; a' loaded -pistol. with Avhich
6he brought to} hlscknees the craven
who • spoke -of |.. turning,' back.?- /'Dead
niggers tell, no tales," She. would" re T
mark with grim -• ferocity; "you go :on,
or you 1 die where - you \ is.'V Under "her
direction the woriien were burdened like
herself ,. while ;\u25a0 she uplifted 'them ' with
an: eloquence-born of \a \u25a0 noble 1 nature,
exhorting' them to 'courage.; Thus by
secret -paths of ; her.;maklng,. through
wilderness; and ' ravine, t.with no guide
. but the north ! star,;; nor, other, light, than
that,; she coaxedji browbeat.-: threatened
and: finally* led: themtforthlinto 'the sun
light of the free soil states. : v
Harriet an; Actress! ; Too ;
r Harriet's ability .*> as an ( actress ' has
been ; alluded to. '\u25a0:?.. Or«e *of • her; masterly. .'
accomplishments in :thls/llrie,l young as
she f was,- was the : - ihjperßonation of .a
decrepifold woman.". On [?nQ of her ex
peditions ; Jnto .Virginia, fandiwith [*."< re^
ward of > $40,000 ton i her ; 5 head,%dead f ; or .
alive, she had the fincredible' nerve ho
enter'a. village* where lived] one v of her*
former masters. ; Thi3 was necessary to
the carrying, out of : heiy plans for; that |
trip. , - Her ; only .disguise? was' a "bodily .
assumption^ .* age. "^.n'o j reinforce 'this .
ljcr subtle^foresight ;prompted!i her* tot;
buy some' live ; chlckens,^.whlcUtshe"carT ; '
rled suspended, by. the: legs: froma,; cord',:
In this manner -She .went "aboutithe real v
business *of ; her S visit." .Suddenly?, the.:
emergency • arose' : which ' eho ; had ; so
marvelously As \ she 'I tv rned ; a
corner she saw 'coming her none ?
other -than s" he r,^ bid l master.],;. Lest ? he 1 ,
might r eee ;' through IherJlmpefsonatioh -i
and ,to make an '• excuse J f or;, fli ght,',; she
loosed ' the Tcord % thatjf held J; the £ f o wls,>;
and, amid' the | laughter; of"«the « by stand-, >
er s, gave chase Ho 5 them fas $ they ' flew
squawking over; a hearbyj fejnce^ : '
.-v WbenXthe':abolltion?movement- swept?:
over; the s New. s England^ states, : ; Harriet t
Tras - in "iher; element^and|heri presence »
at a meeting, eagerly sought, kindled
the wildest : enthusiasm. ~u\ It '.was while ;
on • her ' way *• to I- attend a -large \u25a0 anti-
slavery - concla.ve'l in";. Boston ; that ; she
carried v through "\u25a0: ant- incredibly/ daring
single handed- fight * against ;th« United
States' authorities. : 7: She i had> stopped
to visit a : cousin \ InlTroy, t N/cY. I,'.1 ,' . and
while - there .; learned?. that^d fugitive
slave i named % Charles A Nalle • had \u25a0 been
f allowed s by ;bls^master. N;!,: . i>; ~t
-The i latter t was ? Nalle' s i own > brother,
and i as .;< blacks aB i himself.:-. The * slave
was already in the 'hands of. the .officers:
and | had Sbeen i remanded f back % to f \u25a0Vir-
Binia./' - Instantly^? upon f hearing .' /; the
news Harriet * started » t or,» v the ' office of
the h* V States
spreading ~ the ; object of I. her> /errand
along i the i street \u25a0•. as d. she ,awenC,^ Her
marvelous \ klf a ot- leadershtpj and' com- ,
nxandi: never shone £ brighter/* and $ sho
arrived ? at v - the i commissioner's^ office
backed by :'a'f colored \u25a0 crowd;';Wtth many
whites; l thatV choked': thft ' street \u25a0* "The
omcers dared floti brings the tiigitlva
down to the wagon waiting/, at -Vho
curb \to carry him j away. * l With a fin<i
seme, of dramati« value, Harriet forced
hor way, : to the \ room .-where the fugi
tive eat and stood 'I among the officers
where ] the:; cheering .crowd outside
could plainly^ Bee her.
The officers played a waiting game,
and, thirsting for; action^ Harriet went
out among;' the: mass of people; and,
firing the -imaginations of some boys,
sent thorn about the nearby streets to
cry;*,"Fire**; ; Soon the fire i bells ,-w«r«:
ringlrigrcendt the crowd in; front* of? tho
office '»: greatly. l Increased. 1 / * Harriet * her
self. \u25a0 assuming \ her favorite ; guise of * a
tottering old woman, stood at , the , foot
of ;'theV: commissioner's "; 7 stairs. -*Re
peated efforts : of . the" officers ' to clear
the ? .'£ building ' left ; the >, supposed .: ; old
woman v still,- at s.her_- post, - The', crowd
had now become tensely silent, when
some? one > loudly ; offered to 1, buy the'
negro/?? This i caught )}:\u25a0 the '\u25a0\u25a0 crowd. V and
soon spirited bidding • had raised .. an
offer jof <fl.2oO£for^hlm.\,;;< Suddenly.:? at
this /a* window.:, across -. the
street j was * raised - and a.a '. man's voice'
crledrout:-; v- '^ : ,~'-: '\u25a0, Vi, ,*. ' \u0084.": ''*\u25a0 -''-v. . .-'. -i.
v" "Two hundred dollars ; for ; his rescue
•—not^one^centstobuy^hlml"^ .' '\u25a0\u25a0.\u25a0;' \u25a0 ' \" '.;
-. 1? At i : this >» moment, thinking '. the mob
had spent its. enthusiasm, the officers
were> bringing •' the ";nejrro *~dow» .the.
Italrs to the wagon. He was attended
t>y the United States marshal, a deputy
and his master. \ Fired by the offer of
his rescue, the pushed forward.
and Harriot, tHrowins off her dl3guise,
shouted: / .
/'Here he Is! Here. he la! Take him!"
With these wordashe pounced upon
•the nmrshal .with" all her gigantic
strength lnd s bore him to the ground.
Then, hurling''; men aside like children,
. Bhe \u25a0 seized ; the "prisoner, and with the
mad ferocity.' of her ancestors fought
her wily il own -the street.'-' !
;"X."Drag-»QS out." she yelled.^ "Down to
.the.-rlbber«:.v Drown him, but ; don't let
dam > hav<» : - him !'" : *~
ApoHcemari who struck her with his
club she sent'reellng to his knees. An
other, trying"; to\down her. aha choked
Into half unconsciousness and hurled
him sprawling to the sjdewalk. 'Xoth
inff could. restrain the crowd now. and.
surroundlng.' Harriet nnd her terrified
charge,^ to i.wrfara" :slie , had clunff
throughout. her superhuman struggles,
they .bore them to the *, river. Here he
was placed In a boat,, carried to the
other «lde and rushed Jto: a nearby
, house-»h}l« Harriet followed by the
;ferry. ' . ... .
•'Drive Him Till.He Drops!"
Hcantlme newt "of the fisht spread «to
the other side -'of. the river and the
house was soon surrounded by a mob as
hostile to Xalle' as tlic'otrfer had been
; friendly. . These, incited by officers*
clever. enough. to precede Harriet across
the, river, v/ere storming' the house as
•she came^up. \ There werenegro »ym
pathlzers in the house, and dead on the
'stairs lay.'fone of -the mob.Over his
body went Harriet." followed by the ofil
\u25a0cers, and. up .to the room - where* tho
slave had' taken .refuge. Single handed
she was a match for the officers, knock
ing' down \u25a0'_\u25a0 tho'- first who attacked her
and hurling another through ;the win
dow. • Asiln thedays ot her slavery she
had lightly' shouldered a sack of corn
meal,. her gigantic- strength, now : carao
into play arid;* lifting in her arms the
almost unconscious negro, she rushed
with ihimstol the? street. It seemed as
though thegod v of liberty had enlisted
under her -banner.. Passing the house
was a man driving a spirited horse
With' her wonderful divination of those
In : sympathy : wlj* , her cause she hailed
him and deposifed her- living, burden
in the seat beside htm. Instantly tho
man jumped'Oufof.his carriage. "This
ls'a blooded: horse," said, he. "Drive
) him", till - he "drops."
Loaplng-into the! baggy and seizing
fthe reins, Harriet lashed the horse Into
a gallop and drove furiously the pro
verbial # distance to Sohenectady. Here
Xalle was : handed : over to an under
ground 'agent, and eventually made his
way to Canada: and freedom. , : .
It; was during this period that Har
riet had. settled In "Auburn, X. T. . Here
she. was "living,; ln^ more. comfort than
she had ever 'known, before. Powerful
.outfrlends": "among, the : abolitionists
throughout the country had come to.
her support, tor ~ao valuablewas she to
.their cause that no Jotof her fanatical
energy could b« spared to the tasks of
me^e livelihood. When< the. war broke
out,-however,"she 'had no thought but
serve her people *in the new field thus
opened * to v her.".. : Armed - withY a letter
from Governor "Andrew .of Massachu.
, sotta. she went to Washington and'se
cured from % the, proper., authorities an
appointment In : ; the /secret service of
\u25a0 the ? government.': 'With . this - went . a .
written order Uo : all ; federal comnvarid
ers,*: military: and naval,^;to_ give her rail .
facilities. ..transporfatlon- and " rations
necessaryito the fulfillment; of- her du^
: ties; a». she, should "see -them. V v' "
„? Her years of experience and vast per
- sonal : acquaintance among the negroes '
gained in ; her t .former {expeditions' made
her an Invaluable adjunct in the glean
.' Ing. of detailed^ lnformation , from. inside
the confederate lines and In guiding
'/.theft union £? troops 7; through - f ,trackless^
;swamps}'j arid
.Thousands l of friegt'oes vwere*' made con?
trabandl through the secret ;knowledge
•; at her. command.*-. On one occasion when'
) Information "i had Vbeen 'I received I by 'the
V union commanding^ at^ Beaii-'
]_. fort, T N. . C., s ; that ; a\* tttoutand "negroes* ,
;.were v . congregated some 'miles up » the ._
'•: rlyer,\and {boats ? were ' about : to, be * dis
> patched :5f of Sthenvr^Harriet . suddenly
U appeared \vrithl the "l" l news > that ,tne : river ?
c.-was ? full ? of ,; confederate ;, torpedoes.^ In ".
this emergency she proposed to the as
tonlshed general .i that r.she ; should^ be -
; lntrusted'to] fetch "the contrabands.^- To
v the - general's queries jas~ to" how ' I t'couldj
be done she was -, stuobornly silent/. an-*
*;bendlngionly?toj;'Bay ; - that she -desired "
'\u25a0\u25a0 two'gunboats.icarryi'ng part of a negro V
_; regimen CiWlth' lts logacers! instructed; to
'? act*under}her;directlon-" So, great", was
"the! confidence! reposed, ln ! her. that her
; request .was T granted.* i t; V- .-; :'-;\u25a0],' \u25a0j'i ' -„ ' \
' - .;• By,Vdevious T; known", only
* tQ^herself,-, she^led :her expeditions by/i
JChe San Franciscoi: SuGdajM^
night up the river ana arocna the w^-.
pedoes, and returned in triumph. J^V' ;
gunboats loaded with 800 contraband.
And so well had she imbued them with
her militant spirit on the return trip
that she was able- to enlist them all as
part of the fighting force of the army.
It is one of the great injustices of the
war that, although Harriet was prom
ised the regular bounty then offered for
recruits, she never received a dollar for
bringing? about this wholesale enlist
ment.
Harriet's activities were not confined
to her work as a scout. After every
engagement sho was found in the ranks
of the hospital corps, undaunted by
the bloody sights of the aftermath ot
battle. In a little book published by
her friends some twenty years ago to
relieve Harriet's pecuniary straits. Mrs.
Sarah. H. Bradford has written: .
•'Xpr was her work on the battlefield
alone. At one time she was called
away from Hilton head by one of our
officers to come to Fernandina, where
the men were dying off like sheep from
dysentery. Here . she found thousands
of sick soldiers and contrabands and
immediately gave up her time and at
tention to them. "At another time we
find her nursing those who were down
by hundreds with smallpox and ma
lignant fevers. She had never had these
diseases, but' she seems to have bad
no more fear of death in one form than
another/ It is a shame to our govern
ment that such a helper as this woman
was not allowed pay or pension.
She drew for herself 20 days' rations
during, the four years of her labor. 1 '
When the war was over she return**
unobtrusively to her homely llfe-Ji
Auburn, where, after, &f) year 3of serv
ice to her people and to the cause of
human Justice, she Is -closing her life
In poverty. It was not plaintively, but
rather with a flush of scorn in her dull
ing eyes that she remarked to the
writer last week:
"You wouldn't think dat after I served
de flag so faithfully I should come to
want under its folds."
, VThfn, : looking "'musingly toward a
nearby orchard, she asked suddenly:
"Do you like apples?"
1 On being assured that I did, she said:
"Did you ever plant any apple trees?"
.With shame I confessed I had not.
"No." said she. "but somebody else
planted 'em. I liked apples when I wai
young, and I said. "Some day I*ll plant
apples myself for other young folks to
eat.' and I guess I done it."
Then she laughed as though a sud
den comical recollection had come to
her, and, throwing back her furrowed
fac», burst into a wild plantation mcl«
ody. beating the time with her hands
upon her knees and gleefully swaying
to and fro.
Dar'B. elder so* brandy tn tie cellar
\u25a0 'An' <ie darkles dey'lt t»«T» come;
. - Sins' be bow dt fcUjjcdonx's comia'
An* «le year ob Ju-bl-lum!
Her Distinguished Friends
Of this heroine: of: her. race. «s she
•till works in the midnight of her life
for | the establishment of an Industrial
home for the deserving of her race, ani
as - she ', was •In the days of her mor*
active life, a good Idea' is given in the
following extract from- a private let
ter written by the late Dr. Sanmel M.
Hopkins: '•' -
;i"This heroic woman. Harriet Tubman. '••
belongs to .the purest type of the un
mixed* negro. There Is not a trace In
her countenance of, Intelligence or cour
age., but seldom has there been placed
fn: any woman's hide 'a. soul moved by
higher impulses, a" : purer benevolence,
a more dauntless resolution, a more
passionate love for freedom. This«poor.
ignorant, common looking black woman
was fully capable of acting- the part of
Joan d'Arc or Charlotte Corday."
In^'thc^helgb^t of her fierce career
Harriet , numbered among: her friend*
such figures in 'history as Governor An
drew.^ John ' Brown,' Frederick Douglass.
Gerfit Smith and Wendell Phillips. Fol
lowing"humbly in -'the footsteps of
ttrrir example, the tlrele33 trend of her
philanthropic^ mind has kept to It 3
pathway through, all the years of. her
later privations.' And so Indomitable
has-been, that old Asfcantee. soul that
she has lived to see the realization or
her later project of peace. For through
the tiny, window of ; what she calls her
"shanty" 'she can see the' four walls and
roof of the Industrial home, now dear
to'her' s heart. Sin; the Infirmity of age
sheican do "more than plan, and
at 93 r shV Is ' still ."eagerly - promoting its
permanent endowment. .
-'"• Harriet ;\u25a0 is \very proud of the - fact
that I she Is ' a" member of the Grand
Army of the ; Republic, Woman's Auxil
iary," and, as I came away she said with
a laugh:* :' * jd
i /Tou can 'pit , me in ; de paper f eet i&
an*: head down, but don't forgit'to put
dat in. too, '- l or . I afco* * beJoaj? to de G
\u25a0A.-R.T--C-TT' -\u25a0; -\ —\u25a0» y2- \u25a0'.

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