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“Now look here. I done worked as hard as any man for twenty-four years. I made my way to freedom on my own, and now I intend to help my family. I’m not afraid of what I have to do, and I sure ain’t afraid just because I am a woman!”
Yes, shades of my ole buddy Sojourner Truth ripple though the words of my new hero, Harriet Tubman. Spoken with the verve of a true martyr for freedom, and a liberal dose of Sojourner spunk these words convinced her benefactors that her gender would not prevent her from completing the work that God had called her to do.
“Go down Moses, Way down in Egypt’s land. Tell old Pharaoh, Let my people go!
While not able or allowed to read the Bible, Harriet Tubman learned to sing the Negro spirituals as a small child living on a plantation in southern Maryland. She grew up with songs and stories that would propel her to embrace the work that she truly believed God was calling her to do and that earned her the fitting appellation, Moses of her people. Born the fifth of 9 children around 1825 to slave parents Harriet and Ben Ross, in her own words she recalled, “I grew up like a neglected weed—ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it.” Indeed, a Maryland law passed in 1712 guaranteed that any children born to enslaved women would be considered slaves or “chattel” of the master. Named Araminta or Minty at birth, she soon learned the twin maxims of slavery by harsh experience: (1) their labor was not their own, and (2) they could be sold off at any point to other plantations and separated from family.
At age 5 or 6 she was sent to a neighbor to keep house and care for an infant. She was whipped often because there were specks of dust on a table, or she could not make the baby stop crying. For the rest of her life, her neck bore the scars of being whipped 5 times before breakfast when she was just a mere child. Her early years were a pattern of being sent away to neighbors and sent back to her mother severely debilitated, and undernourished only to be sent away again once she had been nursed back to health. In later years, she recalled an episode that provoked her to run away when she was only seven:
“My mistress got into a great quarrel with her husband; she had an awful temper, and she would scold and storm and call him all kind of names. Now you know, I never had anything good, no sweet, no sugar; and that sugar, right by me, did look so nice and my mistress’ back was turned to me while she was fighting with her husband, so I just put my fingers in the sugar bowl to take one lump and maybe she heard me for she turned and saw me. The next minute she had the rawhide down. I gave one jump out of the door.”
She ran and hid in a pigpen for 5 days and fought off the mother sow for the slop much of which consisted of the food she had prepared the day before. Eventually, the mama sow proved too much for her to fight, so to keep from starving, she went back and suffered a heavy beating. Next, she was hired out to a man who had her wade into waist deep water to recover muskrats from traps. She contracted measles and was sent home again. During this period she was described as sickly with hair that had never been combed and stood out like a bushel basket. Being a clever and resourceful child, she would put on all the clothes she could to protect herself from beatings, but she would wail as if the blows had full effect. Around age 12, she was deemed unfit for domestic work with the white mistresses and was sent to the fields where she began to hear stories of freedom. She liked feeling the wind on her face and seeing the sky while the slaves sang and shared tales of rebellion. They told stories that had filtered back to them of those brave ones, mostly men, who had escaped north to freedom. Minty grew strong from driving oxen, plowing, picking cotton, or hauling logs.
While physically powerful, she was not very attractive—standing only 5 feet tall, with drooping eyes and a permanent scowl on her face, slave traders laughed at her. Her master would often make bets on her and show her off by having her lift a 100 lb. bale of cotton which she would heft upward in a slow and easy movement than throw down as hard as possible never meeting any of their eyes. In her mid-teens she suffered a blow that changed her life forever. While harvesting corn, she observed a male slave slowly moving toward the edge of the field until he took off running toward the town with the overseer in hot pursuit. Arminta took a short cut to warn the escaped slave. Seeing him duck into a store and the overseer go in after him, she followed them in as well. The overseer yelled at her to block his exit, but she let the fugitive slave by and blocked the white boss from following after him. In his outrage, the overseer picked up a 2 lb. weight to fling at the man but hit her instead. Years later she would recount the incident like this: “it broke my skull and cut a piece of my shawl clean off and drove it into my head. They carried me to the house all bleeding and fainting.
I had no bed, no place to lie down on at all, so they lay me on the seat of the loom, and I stayed there all that day and the next.” As a result of the injury, Araminta was deemed not worth a sixpence and left in her parents’ care. For the rest of her life, she would often fall into a trance like sleep sometimes in the middle of conversation like a spell had suddenly come over her. She would fall asleep, awake and continue right where she left off as if nothing had happened. Some biographers called her condition narcolepsy; others referred to it as temporal lobe epilepsy. Because she had defied an overseer, other slaves began to look at her with great respect. After recovering from the brain trauma, or as a result of it, she began to experience visions and potent dreams which she strongly believed were divinely inspired. She asked the Lord to tell master to free her, and if he wouldn’t, then just kill him. To her surprise, her master fell ill and died. She felt great remorse thinking it was her fault; however, his death resulted in her family being sold to a kinder man who hired them out to work in a lumber operation where she was allowed to work outside with the men cutting trees and splitting logs. As she worked alongside her father, he began to instruct her in the natural world. He showed her how to find the North Star using the Big Dipper, the great drinking gourd in the sky.
Plus, he also pointed out the moss growing on the north side of the trees—something that would aid her on cloudy nights when the stars were not out to point the way north. Around age 23, Araminta married John Tubman, a freed slave. She loved him dearly, but he did not share her longing for freedom or her courage to strike out with only the stars to guide them, and the hope of help along the way. Soon after her marriage, she experienced what she later referred to as an epiphany. Her sisters had been sold south, there were rumors that she and her brothers would suffer the same fate, and even though she loved John Tubman, he was lazy and complacent. As she recounted, “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.”
Some biographers say this is when she changed her name to Harriet. Others say her name was changed when she defied the overseer and received her life changing injury, others say she assumed the more grown up name when she married John Tubman. Like many stories about slaves, the facts are often not recorded, like birth dates, names, etc., or they are changed as they move from place to place, or to simply not get in the way of a good story. Many slaves did change their names when they reached freedom, most notably Frederic Douglass who was born on a plantation about 30 miles from Harriet Tubman. He was born Frederic Bailey; as a free man he was known first as Frederick Johnson till he eventually chose the name Frederick Douglass. You might recall that after a highly emotional religious conversion, Isabella Baumfree became Sojourner Truth. For years before her escape Harriet was visited by a recurring vision of a flight to freedom. In her dream, she was “flying over fields and towns, and rivers and mountains, looking down upon them “like a bird”, and reaching at last a great fence, or sometimes a river, over which she would try to fly…It peared like I wouldn’t have the strength, and just as I was sinkin’ down, there would be ladies all drest in white over there, and they would put out their arms and pull me ‘cross.
Harriet’s brothers accompanied her on her first attempt at leaving, but as they tried to follow the North Star, they grew frightened and confused about directions, so they all went back. Eventually, she struck out on her own in the fall of 1849, on foot. On the first leg of the journey she was assisted by a kind Quaker woman she had met while working out in the fields—the woman had just stopped one day to chat with her and offered her assistance should she need it. Harriet traded the wedding quilt she had pieced together when she married John Tubman for two names along with directions of how to get to the first house where the people would take her in and instruct her on how to get to the next station on what came to be known as the Underground Railroad. The legend goes that in the year 1831, a Kentucky slave escaped his home headed for freedom in Ohio.
His master tracked him to the Ohio River where he watched the slave jump in and swim across. Waiting for a boat to ferry him across, the master kept his eyes peeled on the slave, saw him scramble up the bank, and just disappear as if he had gone on some underground road. Allegedly, this account was the origin of the nickname Underground Railroad also known as the UGRR. Now, just imagine this first journey to freedom. A young black woman who has known nothing but drudgery, abuse, a very limited scope of living within a few miles, strikes out on a cold fall evening dressed in whatever ragged clothes she can pile on, wearing cast off worn out boots, maybe carrying a piece of cornbread and a little salt pork to tide her over with the hope of following a constellation in the big sky overhead and finding a white family who will aid her till she can get to a place called Philadelphia, so she can finally be free–now, that my friends is a huge leap of faith–the first giant leap in a long journey to reach emancipation! Harriet roughly followed the Choptank River for some 40 miles, then a road to Camden, Delaware, where she found a house with green shutters and was given some food and new clothes for the trip to the next stop.
As we all know, the Underground Railroad had no tracks but consisted of a series of stops or stations where Quakers, freed slaves, and abolitionists would provide shelter. Code words were employed to trick the pursuers. For example, slaves might be called bundles, parcels, or packages. One bale of cotton might mean one slave, two small bales might indicate children on board. Slave hunters were everywhere lying in wait to capture and return fugitives to their owners. Just one year after Tubman escaped, the Fugitive Slave Law was enacted which meant that by law slaves must be returned to their owners even when captured in free states.
Harriet’s first trip was around 100 miles, from Camden, Maryland, to Philadelphia, PA, by way of Wilmington, Delaware, travelling mostly at night. Harriet was somewhat vague on recounting the details of her first journey; she later described the trek as having been accompanied, phantasmagorically by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night–an obvious Biblical allusion. When she reached freedom, she recalled, “I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees and over the fields and I felt like I was in heaven.” For enslaved people, the journey was a deeply spiritual one. A constant refrain ran through the songs of their people indicating the corporately held idealistic belief that once they crossed over that Mason Dixon line, they would be in the land of Canaan where free at last they could work and worship, marry, and raise children and freely pursue life and liberty. African American spirituals were filled with such sentiments:
Dark and thorny is the pathway, where the pilgrim makes his way;
But beyond this vale of sorrow, lie the fields of endless days. Not only was the pathway dark and thorny for Tubman, it was also very cold and long by preference since she chose to move her passengers in the winter time collecting them in cemeteries or deep woods far from their homes. The preferred night to leave was Saturday since slaves were allowed Sunday for church and socializing and would not be missed until Monday, giving at least one day’s head start between them and the slave trackers. Through the well known spirituals of her people, Harriet would communicate a simple message. She would scope out the departure area, if the coast was clear, she would sing out in a full-throated voice: “Hail, oh hail, ye happy spirits, Death no more shall make you fear.” If there was danger, she would sing a warning, “Oh go down Moses way down into Egypt’s land”. Thus she became the Moses of her people.
Thomas Garrett, a Quaker who became the lynchpin of a core group of Delaware abolitionists who successfully transported hundreds of slaves on the UGRR, said of Tubman: “Harriet seemed to have a special angel to guard her on her journey of mercy. I never met with any person of any color who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken direct to her soul.” Indeed she would talk about consulting God as if asking a friend about matters of business. Once Harriet appeared suddenly in Garret’s store and said, “God tells me you have money for me.” Garret was taken aback and asked, “How much does thee want?” $23 she replied. Shortly before, a letter had arrived in his store from the Anti-Slavery Society of Edinburgh, Scotland, containing five pounds, approximately $24, to be directed to Moses. Harriet’s spiritual mettle was second only to her physical endurance.
Remember that scene in the movie Castaway when Tom Hanks’ fictional character knocks out his abscessed tooth with the blade of a ice skate? That ain’t nothing! While out in the wilds smuggling a group of slaves, Harriet suffered extreme pain from an infection in her mouth. Realizing it would only worsen, she simply took her pistol and knocked out all her front teeth to end her misery–she said it was a small price to pay for relief. If that sounds like tough, the stories are endless of how she waded through neck deep water across running rivers, hid in swamps, walked hundreds of miles, carted, carried, coaxed, ferried, pushed, pulled and even threatened her charges to get them to safety and freedom. When they lost heart, and wanted to go back, she would put her pistol next to their heads and say “move or die.”
In Philadelphia, Harriet worked at domestic jobs in hotels and saved her money in order to bring the rest of her family north to freedom. Unfortunately, the man she loved took a new wife and that was the end of her marriage. Because of the enactment of the Fugitive slave law in 1850, it became too dangerous for escaped slaves to live in many U.S. cities, so their journey to freedom became one of 300 or more miles to Canada rather than 100 or so to Baltimore or Philadelphia. So many slaves settled in the town of St. Catharines, Ontario, that a branch of the Underground Railroad was established there called St. Catharines Refugee Slaves’ Friend Society. Its primary mission was to distribute food, clothing, Bibles, and medicine to the UGRR passengers. Arriving in the deep winter, most newly emancipated slaves were poorly clothed and indigent; they were put to work chopping wood and doing odd jobs. Many died of respiratory illnesses related to the harsh weather and others were subjected to racism and prejudice that seemed worse than that back home.
The free blacks who established themselves in Canada did not want to be objects of charity, but engineers of their hard won liberty. By law in Canada, they were free and could not be extradited back to the states. Most native Canadians were sympathetic–after all slavery had been abolished by Parliament in all British colonies in 1833. Canadians claimed that prejudice was not a British thing, but sprang from the immigrant population. Nonetheless, freed blacks worked to build their own homes and communities and many never returned south. Harriet made many trips back. Now known as General Tubman or Moses, her exploits became legendary and stories and myths of her abounded. It was said that she could see in the dark, sniff danger in the wind, and carry a grown man for miles. Posters appeared everywhere promising rewards for her capture. The exact figure for these rewards is debatable, some say up to $40, 000 though no papers have been found to authenticate that figure. It is more likely that figure is the sum of all rewards that were ever offered for her capture. Nevertheless, rewards as high as $12,000 were common for valuable fugitives.
Harriet was a master of disguise and a consummate actress. Remember she had lots of practice from early childhood when she dramatically faked the effects of the beatings she received while well padded with clothing. She would carry chickens with twine wrapped around their feet in case she needed to suspend them or chase after them causing a squawking distraction in public. Occasionally, she would travel through cities dressed as a man or an old woman. When necessary she would hold a book or newspaper in front of her face and pretend to read even as she sat in front of posters offering big rewards for her capture. Being illiterate, she lived in fear of having the paper or book upside down. People would hide her in carriages, wagons, or even coffins. A friend wrote of her, “she seems to have command over her face, and can banish all expression from her features, and look so stupid that nobody would suspect her of knowing enough to be dangerous.” Some of the intricacies of passage on the Underground Railroad are cloaked in secrecy to this very day due to the massive subterfuge perpetuated by thousands of people who were committed to successfully undermining the great shame of slavery to the point that some methods were never divulged.
As Harriet became more astute at leading fugitives out of New York to Canada, she would often take large groups by railcar over a suspension bridge across Niagara Falls. As they crossed, she would lead them in song while they crowded the windows to see the falls–a signal that they had passed from danger to safety. WOW! I can not even imagine what that feeling must have been like–the majesty of the great falls coupled with freedom. MLK, said it best–Thank God Almighty–Free at Last! Whew! What a trip through an amazing life. In 1859, Harriet Tubman returned to the states and settled in Auburn, New York. With the help of one her primary benefactors, William Seward, she bought a small piece of land and established a home for her parents and other escaped slaves. In 1860, she conducted her last mission of some 19 or so on the UGRR to retrieve her sister Rachel, and Rachel’s two children.
Unfortunately, when she arrived in Maryland she found that Rachel had died and she must pay a $30 bribe to get the children. She had no money so she was unsuccessful and the fate of the two children remains unknown. However, she did lead another family to freedom hiding out for an extended period due to harsh weather and the many slave patrols they encountered. The children were drugged with paregoric to keep them quiet. As if all the exploits on the UGRR were not enough, Harriet Tubman became an integral player in the defeat of the Confederacy. In the beginning she was not a big supporter of Lincoln, because he had not yet officially ended slavery. She said, “I am a poor Negro, but this Negro can tell Mr. Lincoln how to save money and young men. He can do it by setting the Negroes free”. Poor and ignorant maybe, but listen to the wisdom in her analogy in her advice to Lincoln: “Suppose there was an awful big snake down there on the floor. He bites you. Your send for the doctor to cut the bite; but the snake, he coils up there, and while the doctor is doing it, he bites you again, and so he keeps on doing it till you kill him. That’s what Mister Lincoln ought to know.”
Finally, with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Lincoln killed the snake, and Tubman agreed to become a Union spy. Through her work on the Underground Railroad, she had established a clandestine network of friends and supporters. She and some abolitionists friends travelled to Port Royal, South Carolina to help in the Civil War hospitals where she cleaned wounds and put her vast knowledge of home remedies made from roots and plants to good use. Three out of five civil war soldiers died of disease unrelated to their wounds. Harriet’s healing powers were legendary and her home brews miraculously saved so many soldiers that it was said that “if she sat at your bedside, you would not die.” Eventually, she was asked to employ her expertise as a spy and to actually lead a raid becoming the first black woman to accomplish such a feat. On the morning of June 2, 1863, Tubman guided three steamboats around Confederate mines on the Combahee River leading to an assault by Union troops that freed 700 hundred slaves. As the plantations burned, slave women stampeded toward the boats carrying still steaming pots of rice, pigs squealing in bags slung over shoulders, and babies hanging around their necks.
Even though newspapers praised Tubman’s patriotism, sagacity, energy, and ability in the war effort, she was never paid for her services. During her return by train to New York, she was asked to move to the baggage car. She refused, showing documentation of her government service. The conductor cursed her and accused her of having a forged pass. Her stubborn resistance required 4 men to eject her from her seat and dump her in the baggage car breaking her arm in the process as other white passengers shouted that they should kick her off the train. After the war, she returned to her home in New York to care for endless numbers of needy former slaves including her own parents. After hearing that her husband John Tubman had been shot down in the streets of Cambridge, Maryland, she was now free to marry again. She had taken in a 22 year old veteran named Nelson Davis whom she nursed back to health.
He stayed on in her home to do odd jobs and found work as a bricklayer. Eventually they married, he at 25 and she at 45. They were married in Auburn’s Central Presbyterian Church and lived together till he died in 1888. Let the record show that unlike Hamlet’s frail mother, she had nothing to do with Tubman’s murder, and at least 20 years, not a mere month or so, had passed since their estrangement, due to the fact that he had taken another wife. Plus, Harriet wore out many a pair of boots trekking through the rough trails of the Underground Railroad before she took another spouse, in direct contrast to the frail Queen Gertrude who wore her funeral shoes to her wedding. Henceforth, she was known as Mrs. Davis, a postwar gesture of goodwill indicating the respect she had garnered among the white as well as black population in Auburn. After the war, she met Sarah Hopkins Bradford, a staunch abolitionist who became a friend and supporter as well as her first biographer.
Tubman dictated stories to her that Bradford published in two books, earning enough money for Harriet to survive on and care for her parents and other dependents. During this period, her path intersected with an equally legendary former slave, the great Sojourner Truth. Each had heard tales of the other and were commonly linked by the public even though Truth lived in Michigan and Tubman in New York. Their paths crossed in Boston through mutual friends and supporters. Truth was a great admirer or Abraham Lincoln and felt her life had been made complete when she was able to meet him and get him to sign her book. On the other hand, Tubman mistrusted Lincoln and felt that he was responsible for all the injustices suffered by black soldiers who fought in the Union Army. There was no pay equity, black wounded soldiers suffered while waiting for lengthy transport to substandard hospitals, and were buried in segregated graves. Tubman told Truth that she had no interest in meeting Lincoln–something she came to regret in later years, and that prevented them from developing a deeper bond as sisters committed to a common cause.
Both did actively campaign for women’s suffrage and both were befriended by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other well known women in the movement. Tubman earned money for giving speeches in which she often likened her accomplishments to that of any man, just as Sojourner did in her famous, “Ain’t I a Woman” speech. Noteworthy sound bites from Tubman emerged during her speeches: “I sure ain’t afraid just because I am a woman” and “on my underground railroad I nebber run my train off de track and I nebber los’ a passenger.” Till she died Tubman provided a home for extended family and friends. She donated a parcel of real estate next to her home to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Auburn, New York, with the instruction that it would be made into a home for indigent and aged colored people. The home opened in 1908 and she moved into it herself in 1911 when she was too weak to live on her own. It later closed in 1920 and is now a museum and education center.
As Harriet aged she was so plagued by headaches and buzzing in her head that she underwent brain surgery in Boston’s Mass General Hospital. In her words the doctor sawed open her skull and raised it up so that it felt more comfortable. Biographer Kate Larson recorded that Tubman received no anesthesia for the procedure, but chose instead to bite down on a bullet, as she had seen Civil War soldiers do when their limbs were amputated. She died of pneumonia in 1913, the year of Rosa Parks’ birth, surrounded by friends and family members. Just prior to her last breath, she told those in the room, “I go to prepare a place for you” again demonstrating her deep, spiritual convictions. Even though she was never paid for her service during the war, she was buried with full military honors. A year later a memorial service was held in the midst of a period described by biographer Catherine Clinton as a nadir of American race relations, an era when the gains of Reconstruction were edged out by the losses to Jim Crow. That the town of Auburn would sponsor such a tribute demonstrated Tubman’s exalted status within her upstate community.
Booker T. Washington, the most prominent race leader of the day delivered the keynote address in which he lauded Tubman’s accomplishments. A bronze plaque was unveiled in her honor. Mayor Charles Brister, on behalf of the city of Auburn offered these words: “History teaches us that the attribute of courage and conviction of duty toward humanity have very little regard for race, creed or color. Great crisis always develop great leaders to conduct the people through the Red Sea of their difficulties.” Alas, as MLK said, the arc of the moral universe is long; arc with me to October 29, 2003, almost a century after Tubman’s death, in a news release, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that she had secured $11, 750 for the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn, NY. The amount is equivalent to the additional amount of widow’s pension that Harriet Tubman should have received from Jan. 1899, to March, 1913. The funds would be used to preserve and maintain her home and to honor her memory. Tubman had requested a pension for her service in the Union Army during the Civil War, but never received one.
However, her husband, Nelson Davis, served in the United States Colored Infantry and under the Dependent Pension Act of 1890, Harriet Tubman received an $8 per month widow’s pension as the spouse of a deceased veteran from1890–1899. In 1899, Congress authorized the Secretary of Interior to pay her a widow’s pension of $25 a month for the duration of her life. However, she received only $20 per month until her death in 1913. The funding approved by the Senate in 2003 is the sum which compensated for the widow’s pension withheld from Harriet Tubman between 1899 and her death, adjusted from 1913 to the present day, making it $11, 750. The issue was brought to the Senator’s attention during a visit with students from the Albany Free School who studied the life of Harriet Tubman and spent nearly two weeks tracing the path to freedom that she is credited with paving as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Clinton stated, “I thank the Albany students who brought this matter to my attention, and I hope we can work together to honor the memory of Harriet Tubman by making sure that this injustice is remedied.”
Finally, that moral arc does bend toward justice! In conclusion, truly Harriet Tubman was the Moses of her people. And just like Moses, she was an unlikely leader–short, unattractive, unintelligible in speech, yet spurred on by her overweening desire for freedom melded with a deep understanding of the calling by her creator, the very God of the universe who hung those silent stars in that eternal black sea of sky that led her on to freedom. I have always enjoyed that brief moment at 5AM each winter morning when I take the short trek out to the street to retrieve my paper. I love looking up at the vast night sky and seeing Ursa Major hanging right over my head. Plus, the cold air slapping me in the face serves as an excellent wake-up call! Now without thinking, I find myself looking for the front tip of the dipper and following an imaginary line to Polaris, the North Star. Repeatedly, I realize that it is harder than you think to find it! My daughters have an app on their cell phones that allows them to simply hold the phone up to the night sky wherever they are, and a diagram will appear depicting the constellations overhead along with the names of all the stars.
No more arcing to Arcturas for them. It is like having Ronnie Barnes in the palm of your hand! I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I had to use my GPS to navigate the circuitous 10 mile drive out her tonight. Yes, it required rocket science, map quest, and a Phd to show us the way. How did Harriet manage without such help? Astounding, isn’t it? Just knowing our sky is the same sky that led Harriet Tubman to freedom is as mesmerizing as the amazing story of how she did what she did through her sheer strength of will coupled with her unshakeable faith in God. And while I feel my own accomplishments in life are small in comparison, her powerful witness enlarges me as well all of mankind and spurs us on to be better than we think we can be. As Emily Dickinson so aptly wrote, “We never know how high we are till we are called to rise, and then if we are true to plan, our statures touch the skies.” Amazingly, the 5 foot stature of this uneducated, poor, enslaved black woman not only touched the sky, but reached well into infinity and beyond! Tonight as we leave and each day for the rest of our lives, may we think of Harriet Tubman each time we view the beauty of a clear winter night sky, and remember her many flights to freedom on the imaginary tracks of the famed Underground Railroad. Harriet, thy name is fascinating, fearless, even formidable, but not the least bit frail!