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Angel in Ebony

Today is set aside as MLK Jr. Day. While our generation didn't experienced the horrors of slavery, our children and grandchildren need to know about a tiny woman who brought many of her own people to freedom.

Araminta Ross was born on a Maryland slave plantation two hundred years ago. “Minty” as she was called, had deeply religious parents who taught her Bible stories and spiritual songs.

This stubborn girl was a failure each time her owners hired her out to work at other plantations. People said she was stupid. Exasperated, her owner sent her to work in the fields where the work was brutal. She outgrew the name “Minty” by age eleven and was called Harriet, her mother’s name also.

The slave girl married John Tubman, a free black man when she was 24. Harriet begged her husband to run away to freedom with her. He threatened to tell the master if she tried it.

But run away she did. However, not before she received a hard blow to the head which rendered her unconscious and gave her a lifelong condition of severe headaches and sudden fainting spells.

Pennsylvania, a free state near Maryland, was her goal. Could she find her way there?

Fortunately, the Quakers knew how to help escaping slaves via the Underground Railroad. At times they hid Harriet in unique places such as in a wagon under a load of vegetables, under haystacks and in attics. They disguised her once as a fine lady and drove her in a buggy.

After traveling ninety miles from Maryland to Pennsylvania, Harriet wearily reached freedom.

But this devoted woman couldn’t rest, knowing so many of her relatives and friends suffered under the hands of cruel slave masters. So back she went, many times, to rescue those still in bondage.

Always, Harriet’s life was in danger. She traveled at night and slept in the woods during the day when necessary. Wanted posters appeared, with her picture and a $40,000 reward for anyone who captured her.

Often, this “angels in ebony” encountered impossible circumstances. If a “station” failed to help her. Harriet would pray to the God of heaven, “Lord, I’m going to hold steady on to you, and you’ve got to see us through.” And each time God did.

Once a man came wandering through the woods where she and her exhausted runaways were hiding. He seemed to mutter to himself while he walked, saying he had a wagon and a horse in a nearby barnyard. Then he disappeared. When Harriet dashed there after dark, it was as he said. And the wagon contained food and blankets. “Thank you, Jesus!” she cried.

Over the course of her life, Harriet Tubman helped over 300 slaves escape to freedom. After the Civil War she opened a home for sick, poor and homeless people in Auburn, New York. And that is where her life ended at the age of ninety-three.

Harriet Tubman, one of God’s angels in ebony, is remembered as a champion of freedom who worked in a quiet way.


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