What a fascinating tour given by Justin Harris of:
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We met at the NYS Equal Rights Visitor Center walking 90 minutes through Auburn. Here’s some snippets of what I learned on this tour.
Harriet’s Early Beginnings
At 6, Harriet was leased to an owner where her tasks were chores in the day, and caring for the owner’s children at night. She was warned if she did not keep the children quiet she would be whipped. Since this did not occur, many whippings ensued. Harriet also had a 2 pound weight thrown at her neck later causing epilepsy for the remainder of her life. Her injuries left her unable to learn how to read or write. Weak from these injuries she was unable to be sold off.
Justin beginning the tour at the Center
Years as a Young Woman
Later in her life she fell in love, and married a free man, John Tubman. Though not a legal marriage, as she was not allowed to legally marry as a slave, with John’s assist she became stronger. During this period she hired herself out for $60/year to purchase her freedom. She saved and prayed, fearful she would be sold.
When her owner died his wife acquired his assets, and Harriet made a plan to flee through the Underground Railroad. She and her brothers began the journey, however, her brothers returned to the plantation. Harriet continued and made it to the Mason-Dixon Line where she acquired work as a housekeeper in Philadelphia. Her husband did not leave as this would threaten his status as a free man.
A year later Harriet returned, as she missed her husband, and family, however, her husband had legally remarried to a free woman. During her absence Harriet was unable to contact family due to possible reprisals.
The Underground Railroad Journeys
It was after this time she began to work with the Underground Railroad taking others North for over a decade. She made contacts through this work meeting many prominent people. William Seward, a prominent Auburn citizen, and later Secretary of State under Lincoln, was one of these contacts. His home was an Underground Railroad Stop. Throughout Auburn there are Lanterns marking Underground Railroad Station sites.
These “Lanterns” designate stops on the Underground Railroad.
There was much information given on this tour, and recommend others to check it out if in the area. Besides a conductor on the Railroad, Harriet became involved in the Civil War, working as both a spy and a nurse. She also worked behind the scenes for women’s rights along with other suffragettes in the area.
We ended our tour at the historic Fort Hill Cemetery where Harriet and her family are buried.
Harriet – The Moses of Her People