On the 97th Year Since Harriet Tubman Died

In children’s books, scholarly texts, popular culture and any Black History Month curriculum, Harriet Tubman is a fixture, and rightfully so: Her bravery still astounds.

Born a slave in Maryland during 1822, the adolescent Tubman (then Araminta Ross) suffered a blow to her head from a cruel overseer, as a result suffering  seizures, headaches and hallucinations for the rest of her life. Nonetheless, in her late 20s she escaped to freedom in Philadelphia and made more than a dozen trips back to Maryland, leading both her own family and dozens of other slaves to freedom.

Her Underground Railroad is legend: a complex, covert system of people and places on which she famously “never lost a passenger.” In her later years, she became active in women’s suffrage, surviving until her early 90s.

In Tubman’s day, women were property, while Black women were not even considered human. Their bodies were auctioned off to the highest bidder, their children sold, their breasts often used to feed others’ children. Today, although incredible strides in women’s rights and race relations have been made, Black women’s bodies are still problematic terrain–look no further than the current abortion debates that target Black women.

Moreover, as feminists such as Jessica Valenti and Courtney E. Martin have written, sexism still weaves its ugly head in virtually every corner of American political, public and private life. For single Black women, the median wealth is astonishly low.

Still, despite the work that needs to be done, I am abundantly hopeful. The legacy of Tubman has taught me that much. Our foremothers blazed trails even as they met danger at every step. On the anniversary of Tubman’s  March 10, 1913 death, her example is a shining one of what is possible and what one committed person can do.

“Harriet Tubman” sung by Coronlaine show choir (Brazil):


  1. Great post

  2. Karen Jones Meadows wrote a piece for On The Issues Magazine about the struggles she faced while writing her play, “Harriet’s Return.” The article shines light on Harriet Tubman’s successes and on her character, while discussing her deep legacy. That legacy and Tubman’s depth of character made it difficult for Meadows to bring her to the page. A very interesting read…


  3. Thanks for reminding us of the incredible human potential for strength and courage, traits Harriet Tubman exemplified like none other.

  4. In article about Harriet Tubman, you would think that it would have been advisable to link to Black blogs, rather than the writers of the largest WHITE feminist blog on the internet. It seems to me, that if you are going to write about Tubman, that centering Black women would have been more appropriate.

  5. Courtney Young says:


    I appreciate the critique you have with respect to the links that I have provided in my blog posting on Harriet Tubman but I take issue with the fact that this posting is somehow lacking in appropriateness. I fail to see how links provided alone would somehow decentralize Black women from a blog posting that is dedicated to one.


  1. rmartin says:

    […] Odom — even though they've only dated for about a month! The reality TV star — and sister of KimOn the 97th Year Since Harriet Tubman Died : Ms Magazine Blogrmartin says: March 11, 2010 at 12:59 pm. In article about Harriet Tubman, you would think that it […]

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