Harriet Tubman | Hero of Faith

Biography by

Katherine Bussard

Ex. Director & COO

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” ~ 1st Cor. 1:26-31

Harriet Tubman’s Faith Made Her Fearless | 1822-1913

Born into slavery in the state of Maryland, Harriet Tubman is remembered today as one of the heroes of the Underground Railroad and the American Abolitionist movement, as well as a courageous Union spy during the Civil War. 

Harriet, then called Araminta Ross, was forced to begin work as a household maid at the age of 5 years old and was eventually moved to working the Maryland farm’s tobacco fields. At age 22, she married a free black man named John Tubman, but remained enslaved until she ran away at age 27.  During her own daring escape, she was aided by members of the underground Railroad, who helped her get safely to freedom in Philadelphia, 90 miles away.

Once free, she could not forget about those still trapped in bondage. She began working with William Still and others active helping slaves escape north on the Underground Railroad. Sometimes using conventional transportation while disguised, sometimes traveling hidden away in false-bottom wagons, and sometimes walking through perilous forests, Tubman made more than a dozen trips back into slaveholding states, risking her life to lead more than 300 individuals to freedom.  Every journey was a success and she never lost a single “passenger” on the Underground Railroad. 

Harriet Tubman’s service during the Civil War was no less courageous. When the Civil War broke out, Harriet offered her services as a spy and scout to the Union Army. Her extensive experience with covert travels made her uniquely equipped for this type of service. In 1863, during the South Carolina Combahee Ferry Raid, she led 150 African American soldiers into the fray and brought more than 700 people to freedom in a single day. On several occasions, she performed similar deeds, but she also nursed and cared for injured soldiers. Her compassion for people continued to be a driving factor after the war, when she founded the Tubman Home for the Aged & Indigent.  First using her own home in upstate New York, and then purchasing 25 acres of adjacent property, Harriet devoted herself to humanitarian aid, meeting needs like housing, food, clothing, and medical care for the most vulnerable.  She was not a wealthy woman of means, but always trusted God to provide, and He always did. Because her dream was bigger than one woman, she partnered with the the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church to oversee operations when she herself was aged and in need of care. The ministry continued for years after her death and is now a national park and museum. 

Lessons From Harriet’s Life:

In the eyes of many in the world, Harriet Tubman was born “the least of these” without a life of privilege or influence, but she trusted the Lord and He gave her “the heart of a lion” to be courageous in the work He had for her. 1st Corinthians 1:26-31 tells us God often works this way, using what is weak in the eyes of the world to show His strength.  Throughout her life, Harriet prayed that God would use her and strengthen her,  “..and I prayed to God to make me strong and able to fight, and that’s what I’ve always prayed for ever since.” And throughout her life, God did just that. Harriet Tubman-becasue of her faith in God-accomplished extraordinary things to the glory of God. May we likewise have the courage to walk in faithful obedience to God, that He may be glorified in all we do. 

Harriet Tubman in Her Own Words:

“What did you say to me this morning? You said ‘We hadn’t got nothing to eat in the house and what did I say to you? I said ‘I’ve got a rich Father!’”

“God’s time 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.”

Recounting her freedom: “I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land; and my home, after all, was down in Maryland; because my father, my mother, my brothers, and sisters, and friends were there. But I was free, and they should be free. I would make a home in the North and bring them there, God helping me. Oh, how I prayed then,” she said; “I said to the Lord, I’m going to hold steady on to you, and I know you will see me through.”

“I was 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.”

“..and I prayed to God to make me strong and able to fight, and that’s what I’ve always prayed for ever since.” 

“For no man should take me alive; I should fight for my liberty as long as my strength lasted, and when the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.”

What Those Who Knew Harriet Observed:

Abolitionist and Quaker Underground Railroad Operator Thomas Garrett said of his work with Harriet: “In truth I never met with any person, of any color, who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken direct to her soul. She has frequently told me that she talked with God, and he talked with her every day of her life, and she has declared to me that she felt no more fear of being arrested by her former master, or any other person, when in his immediate neighborhood, than she did in the State of New York, or Canada, for she said she never ventured only where God sent her, and her faith in a Supreme Power truly was great.”

Biographer Sarah Bradford recounting part of her time interviewing Harriet about her persistence, even when she was wanted as a runaway slave: “I will give her an article from a paper…. Among American women,” says the article referred to, “who has shown a courage and self-devotion to the welfare of others, equal to Harriet Tubman? Hear her story of going down again and again into the very jaws of slavery, to rescue her suffering people, bringing them off through perils and dangers enough to appall the stoutest heart, till she was known among them as ‘Moses.'”Forty thousand dollars was not too great a reward for the Maryland slaveholders to offer for her.””Think of her brave spirit, as strong as Daniel’s of old, in its fearless purpose to serve God, even though the fiery furnace should be her portion. I have looked into her dark face, and wondered and admired as I listened to the thrilling deeds her lion heart had prompted her to dare. ‘I have heard their groans and sighs, and seen their tears, and I would give every drop of blood in my veins to free them,’ she said.

 

Sources:

Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, by Sarah H. Bradford, accessed: https://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/bradford/bradford.html

https://parade.com/1331514/kaigreen/harriet-tubman-quotes/

https://source.colostate.edu/faith-made-harriet-tubman-fearless-as-she-rescued-slaves/ 

https://www.nps.gov/places/tubmanagedhome.htm

About the Author

Katherine Bussard
Ex. Director & COO
As Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of Salt & Light Global, Katherine works to disciple servant-leaders in all walks of life, equipping them to share the redemptive love and truth of Jesus. She facilitates training in good governance for communities around the state, mentors other Christian women in leadership, and champions sound public policy. In speaking, writing, and serving, Katherine seeks to encourage the body of Christ to see all of who they are what they do through God’s Word. Katherine resides with her husband and partner in Kingdom service, Jeff.

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