UIMD: The Harriet Tubman Spirit

Sale of Slave Girl Kizziah
Auction advertisement for the pending sale of Tubman’s niece Kizziah Jolley Bowley. The sale was canceled, enabling Kizziah’s husband John to coordinate Kizziah’s rescue with Tubman’s help.


UI Meme of the Day, a daily series…

“I coulda freed a thousand more.”

Let’s get down to brass tacks.

There is no documented evidence that Harriet Tubman spoke these actual words, but she came pretty close and close enough.

Here’s something she did say:

I was the 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.” – Harriet Tubman at a suffrage convention, NY, 1896.

Let’s think for a moment about the power and implication of the fabled words of Harriet Tubman, those of a woman who could have easily been killed, but was not.

How many Black folks in today’s America do NOT know that they are slaves?

They will tell you they are free, they will point to the Emancipation Proclamation, and other constitutionalized documents, but then they will behave like caged birds and say “everything” is fine just as it is.

We’ve got our Dr. Cornel West’s who say all is not right in Black America, and yet he, unlike Harriet Tubman, does nothing to change things for the better — nor has he found any “mental Black slaves” of this day and age yearning to be set free. They do not know they are slaves, nor do many of them seem to care.

Born in 1822 in America’s Maryland, Tubman was provably known as a “take-no-shyt” kind of Black woman.

She was tough as nails and as stubborn as a 2×4 upside the head in her staunch determination to get her “peeps” off those wretched plantations down south of America, whether they wanted to go or not. She had her boots on the ground, and a pistol in her hand, and that was the only thing some white folks and a whole lot of Black folks answer to.

Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman: You can’t free someone who doesn’t know he’s a prisoner.

Yes, there are a lot of ‘myths’ and rumors surrounding the real Tubman, but the truth is what we focus on.

Whether it was 50, 60, 70, 300, or even 1,000 slaves Tubman rescued, or whether she made 13, 19, or 100 trips between Maryland and Canada, this treacherous “rail” way from the south to the north, the one above the Mason-Dixon Line of the Old South, was no myth … nor was it a joke.

These runaway slaves, mostly members of Harriet Tubman’s own family in Maryland, were sought after and hunted down like venison for dinner.

“Down Below” the Mason-Dixon Line was the tortured souls of whites too lazy to farm their own land, slop their own hogs, clean up after themselves, and far too lazy and careless to even feed and take care of their own offspring.

Southern America was a white racist hell and Harriet Tubman devoted eight years of her life to getting to heaven – “up north” – bound for the Promised Land of many a Black slave’s mirages and imaginations.

Her pistol she used to protect herself and to make sure that those she hauled off had no intentions of wasting her time and “crying and weeping and wailing and whining and gnashing their teeth” along the way, nor of making excuses about why they would be better off on the plantation.

Mary Ann Cary
Mary Ann Cary – Fugitive Slave Act. Tubman was not the only one, she was just the most infamous one.

In the spirit of Harriet Tubman, it is long past time for some other Black people to catch up and keep up. That includes you, Cornel West. P. H. D.

Tubman had no majority mainstream formal education to be an effective leader, she had a message people needed to hear.



Yet and still there are so many mental slaves still living on mental plantations in America that it has come down to a ‘school to prison pipeline‘ that has gone mostly ignored, even by many too many BLACK PEOPLE.

It would appear that some folks ought to have a few pistols to do something besides shoot at each other; and the unction to go get their own children and to keep these prison plantation slavemasters as far away from our homes, families and children as we can get them, even if it means kicking the children’s arsses in order to teach them what REAL FREEDOM means and feels like, and smells like, and entails.

Here is something else Tubman actually DID say: “Slavery is the next thing to hell.” – to Benjamin Drew, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, 1855

Bounty on the Head of Peter Pennington
Runaway advertisement for Peter Pennington, who fled with Tubman’s help in November 1856 with friends Joe and Bill Bailey and Eliza Manokey. They all successfully made it to freedom.

Dr. Cornel West and so many other Black leaders can stand to learn a thing or two about Black leadership and “freeing Black minds” from Leader Harriet Tubman. Slavery is the next thing to hell, and mental slavery is hell — especially with folks who don’t even know they are there.

Tubman wasn’t fixated on a President who didn’t give a shit about her or her family, she was fixated on getting a job done of removing her people to the “Promised Land,” President or no President, whether they liked it or not.

No President could do for her what she had to do for herself, what she had to make her own open their eyes to — REAL freedom.

The Bounty of $40,000 “Wanted Dead or Alive” for Minty Ross (Tubman’s alias) -as given by the Brodess family who once owned her – was derived from the money that Tubman’s people earned.

Untwist, Black America.

Don’t be a ‘slave of the mind’ about what the real deal was, and still is right now, in today’s America.

To this day, white America attempts to soft-sell the brutality of slavery and the dishonesty of the onerous “Black Codes” by using made-to-order textbooks to make it more palatable for younger [white] minds, and by using their vote-given leverage to strip the heart out of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (which is not yet 50 years old), AND while simultaneously leaving a 238-year old racist Constitution that does us no good whatsoever intact.

The Harriet Tubman spirit mandates that “we are the only ones we are waiting for.”

This is what West and those like him, so intent on rescuing Black people who don’t know they aren’t free, needs to be working on … get the pistol and skip the “coulda, wouldas, shouldas.” They take a pistol (an arsenal of bombs and weapons of mass destruction, that is) to them that is meant to steal, kill, and destroy — why wouldn’t you, we, have a pistol (bombs and wmd’s) meant to set them free?

Here are a few more of Tubman’s actual historically DOCUMENTED quotes:

“I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty, or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other; 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.” – Harriet Tubman to Sarah Bradford in Harriet, The Moses of Her People, 1886

“…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.”  – Harriet Tubman to Sarah Bradford in Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, 1868

I grew up like a neglected weed, ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it. Then I was not happy or contented.” – Harriet Tubman to Benjamin Drew, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, 1855

 “..and I prayed to God to make me strong and able to fight, and that’s what I’ve always prayed for ever since.” – Tubman to Ednah Dow Cheney, SC, 1865

“God’s time [Emancipation]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. – Harriet Tubman to Ednah Dow Cheney, New York City, circa 1859

This was ONE HUNDRED YEARS BEFORE I WAS BORN. Why are we still having this conversation right now, more than a century and a half later?

If only today’s Black America had the courage to use the “Tubman effect” – with a pistol, too, if need be.

Be done with American racism once and for all; take it down by force.

We may not stop it, but we can stop its impact AND its power over us. That is something Obama cannot do, nor should he.


PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.

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