Profile of Harriet Tubman

Air Date: 03/18/1984
Source:
NBC News
Creator:
Lynn Redgrave
Air/Publish Date:
03/18/1984
Event Date:
c. 1820
Resource Type:
News Report
Copyright:
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
Copyright Date:
1984
Clip Length:
00:05:16

Harriet Tubman returned to the South 19 times to bring over 300 slaves to freedom. Much less is known about Harriet Tubman's role as nurse, spy and soldier with the Union forces during the Civil War.

Profile of Harriet Tubman

ALICE BRICKLER, Harriet Tubman’s niece: I knew aunt Harriet Tubman personally. Although I was a very little girl when I knew her, yet I felt the glory of her. She was a wonderful woman. She was my great aunt.

She would encourage us to study, to be religious, and of course to be cleanly. And she loved us very much. And she would sit on her porch in her wheelchair, and we would sit on the steps at her feet and tell her our stories in place of letting her tell us her stories.

And she died in 1913. I remember her funeral because I had scarlet fever and my mother and I were quarantined in the house and couldn’t go the funeral. And I remember standing at the big front window and watching the hearse going slowly by our door, our house, carrying her body to the church.

LYNN REDGRAVE, narrator: Alice Brickler, 83 years old, is talking about her great aunt, Harriet Tubman, the legendary woman who became known as the “Moses of her people.” Harriet Tubman was born about 1820 in Maryland, and 19 times made the dangerous journey from south to north, bringing 300 slaves to freedom. The escape route was the famous Underground Railroad, and she didn’t ride on it, she walked, traveling by night in all kinds of weather, crossing swamps, wading in rivers trying to throw bloodhounds off the trail. She found her way in the darkness by feeling the moss on tree trunks and following the North Star. By day, she hid her fugitives in caves, graveyards, churches, barns, and the attics of friendly people along the way. End of the line was Canada, because bounty hunters roamed the Northern United States looking for runaway slaves.

Much less is known of Harriet Tubman’s role as nurse, spy and soldier with the union forces during the Civil War.

BRICKLER: After the war was declared, of course Harriet was very angry with Abraham Lincoln, she never did forgive him. She forgave his wife, but not him. But after the Civil War, Harriet was carried into the army as a spy and they put her on one of the boats and she led the sailors down the coast, the Carolina coast and down to Georgia and then she carried them up the river and the boats anchored, and she and a small group of soldiers got out and went inland. And they visited all the different plantations, and they encouraged the slaves to drop their work and come, and slaves came. Harriet said it was the most miraculous sight you have ever seen – they came with pots of chicken that they had taken right off the stove. Sitting up on the heads, bringing it to the soldiers. They had rice, they had greens, they had every conceivable type of food. And they brought food to the soldiers and the soldiers gave them what best they could-- their freedom. And Harriet stayed in some of the camps because it was so many soldiers who were sick with diarrhea and other diseases and she knew how to cure them and how to help them. And regardless of what the soldier was, be he a rebel or be he a Yankee, she took care of him.

Harriet didn’t use this gun, but she had one that was something like it. That she carried in her basket. Many people will say to me, “Harriet never carried a weapon.” That’s wrong. Harriet always carried a weapon, but she never handled it very often. She carried it in the bottom of her basket. She had a great big basket that she carried on her arm, when she was traveling. And she had in this basket on the bottom was her gun and on that was pillows and things and she put the babies in there. She gave the babies paregoric so that the slept all time and didn’t give them away when they were traveling. She carried the gun because she knew that she had to protect everybody and everybody’s life was in her hands.

REDGRAVE: Harriet Tubman lived out the years after the war in Auburn, New York. A familiar site along the road, selling produce from her garden. As usual, the money was mostly for others. Friends tried for years to collect her Union Army pay for her. Finally, Congress voted an $8 a month pension. Ashamed of themselves, they raised it to $25, then reduced it to $20. But her place in history could not be ignored for long. Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad have become lasting symbols of freedom.

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