The Legacy of Harriet Tubman

A part of the indomitable legacy of Harriet Tubman was that no matter the odds you face, "keep going." She set goals and objectives that were always obtainable. Even if many around her thought the goals beyond reach, she always knew that they were indeed achievable. At the same time, she never took small and safe steps for fear of failure. She took giant steps with every challenge she faced and she succeeded where many others had failed. When leading slaves to freedom, Harriet Tubman would not tolerate failure. If one of her charges wanted to quit and turn back, she knew that any returning slaves would easily identify her mission and destroy it for others. She would tell the often frightened slaves that, "on my Underground Railroad, I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger."

Truly, one of the most endearing legacies of Harriet Tubman was her ability to forge alliances between whites and blacks at a time of incomprehensible opposition. The great Booker T. Washington said of Harriet Tubman, she "brought the two races together." During her time in 1896, segregation had been officially sanctioned in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson. So the freedom she sought was still yet to be achieved. The alliances she developed with many whites set her far apart in many ways from the radical blacks and whites of her era.

The abolitionist John Brown called Harriet Tubman "General Tubman" for her innate abilities to lead the slaves to freedom. In 1897, Queen Victoria of England, having heard of the accomplishments of Harriet Tubman awarded her a silver medal, a letter of accommodation, a cash stipend and a silk shawl that she proudly wore. Governor and U.S. Senator William Seward of the State of New York wrote of his friend, Harriet Tubman, "I have known her long, and a nobler, higher spirit, or a truer, seldom dwells in the human form." Harriet Tubman's associations with some of the most powerful people in government and within the American private business sector were truly astonishing. It was a tribute to her grit and sheer determination that she gained access to the rich and powerful. But as her reputation spread as a result of her work, she became, much to her astonishment, a major figure in American culture.

Upon her death in 1913, the outpouring of condolences reached across all racial lines, economic divisions and from around the world. It was truly a remarkable occurrence in a remarkable time. During her lifetime, Harriet Tubman had dreamed that one day all men of all colors would come together and be as one. It was much the same dream that Martin Luther King held for his people fifty years later in the 'March on Washington'. She might never have imagined that she would do more to bring that about than she would have ever dreamed. The Legacy of Harriet Tubman is within us all.