Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom

This Maryland Public Television film clip describes Harriet Tubman’s commitment to freedom during the journeys she made in late 1860 on the Underground Railroad.

– “Wade in the Water” is a song that we would sing to ease people into the water to be baptized. And so it comes to have that double meaning. “Wade in the Water” could start with a low moan or a low hum . And so if someone’s just kind of moaning and motioning for people to move past, or if everybody’s kind of singing it softly, ♪ Wade in the water ♪ ♪ Wade in the water, children ♪ ♪ Wade in the water ♪ ♪ God’s gonna trouble these waters ♪ ♪ See that band all dressed in white ♪

– To be a conductor on the Underground Railroad, like Harriet Tubman, you had to really teach those under your care how they need to be behave in every possible circumstance. And she was clear that, once you start this path towards freedom, there was no turning back. ♪ Wade in the water ♪ ♪ God’s gonna trouble these waters ♪

– Famously, when a freedom seeker traveling with her got cold feet, she pulled out a pistol and threatened to use it on him because nobody would be more dangerous to Harriet Tubman than somebody who had come partway with her, given up, and then gone back into slavery.

– She was short and she was small and she was a woman. That pistol gave many of those who were running for their lives a great level of confidence in that she was clearly in charge. ♪ My Lord delivered Daniel well ♪ ♪ Daniel well, Daniel well ♪

– A whole mythology had grown up around the Underground Railroad. But, gotta say, what Harriet Tubman was doing is something that’s much more like a military raid. ♪ Daniel well ♪ ♪ Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel well ♪

– Harriet Tubman knew how to use disguises and subterfuge, I mean, she was brilliant, brilliant. ♪ Man went down to the river, Lord ♪

– She never accepted praise or responsibility even for these great feats. She always saw herself as a vessel of her God.

– There’s a fearlessness there, there’s a conviction there. She herself knew that she could be captured at any moment but she did not waver about it. You know, she knew that her prayers would be answered. ♪ God’s gonna trouble these waters ♪

– The last of the approximate 13 trips that Harriet Tubman makes is as the Civil War is just beginning, very late in 1860. Lincoln has been elected but not yet inaugurated. You could cut the tensions in this country with a knife. Harriet Tubman has already purchased a home in New York in Auburn. And Harriet’s main purposes for returning, very dangerous, to Dorchester County and the eastern shore were to bring others, but especially her family, to freedom. And time and time again, Harriet has tried unsuccessfully to liberate her sister, Rachel.

– And when she goes down there this time to get her sister and her children, she come to find out that her sister Rachel had died a few months prior to her coming down. And of course, she was floored when she found that out. Probably heartbroken. But while she was there, she made the decision, again, let’s not waste this journey. And there was a family, the Ennalls family, that was ready to go, the husband, wife, and three children.

– She was very to the point. “My name is Harriet Tubman. I’m here to take you to freedom. You need to follow me and we need to move right now.”


How Should You Think About This Source?

  1. What is the topic of this film? Provide some key highlights that describe what you saw and heard.
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  3. What was happening during the time period this video recording represents? If someone created this film today, what would be the same or different?

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