Harriet Tubman

Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman – Part 21

Appendix II

It has been mentioned that Harriet never asks anything for herself, but whenever her people were in trouble, or she felt impelled to go South to guide to freedom friend or brother, or father and mother, if she had not time to work for the money, she was persistent till she got it from somebody.

When she received one of her intimations that the old people were in trouble, and it was time for her to go to them, she asked the Lord where she should go for the money. She was in some way, as she supposed, directed to the office of a certain gentleman in New York. When she left the house of her friends to go there, she said, “I’m gwine to Mr.–‘s office, an’ I ain’t gwine to lebe there, an’ I ain’t gwine to eat or drink till I git enough money to take me down after the ole people.”

She went into this gentleman’s office.

What do you want, Harriet?” was the first greeting.

I want some money, sir.”

You do? How much do you want?”

I want twenty dollars, sir.–

“Twenty dollars? Who told you to come here for twenty dollars?”

“De Lord tole me, sir.”

“Well, I guess the Lord’s mistaken this time.”

“I guess he isn’t, sir. Anyhow I’m gwine to sit here till I git it.”

So she sat down and went to sleep. All the morning and all the afternoon she sat there still, sleeping and rousing up–sometimes finding the office full of gentlemen–sometimes finding herself alone. Many fugitives were passing through New York at that time, and those who came in supposed that she was one of them, tired out and resting.

Sometimes she would be roused up with the words, “Come, Harriet, you had better go. There’s no money for you here.” “No, sir. I’m not gwine till I git my twenty dollars.”

She does not know all that happened, for deep sleep fell upon her; but probably her story was whispered about, and she roused at last to find herself the happy possessor of sixty dollars, which had been raised among those who came into the office. She went on her way rejoicing, to bring her old parents from the land of bondage. She found that her father was to be tried the next Monday, for helping off slaves; so, as she says, she “removed his trial to a higher court,” and hurried him off to Canada.

One more little incident, which, it is hoped, may not be offensive to the young lady to whom it alludes, may be mentioned here, showing Harriet’s extreme delicacy in asking anything for herself.

Last winter (’67 and ’68), as we all know, the snow was very deep for months, and Harriet and the old people were completely snowed-in in their little home. The old man was laid up with rheumatism, and Harriet could not leave home for a long time to procure supplies of corn, if she could have made her way into the city. At length, stern necessity compelled her to plunge through the drifts to the city, and she appeared at the house of one of her firm and fast friends, and was directed to the room of one of the young ladies.

She began to walk up and down, as she always does when in trouble. At length she said, “Miss Annie?” “What, Harriet?” A long pause; then again, “Miss Annie?” “Well, what is it, Harriet?” This was repeated four times, when the young lady, looking up, saw her eyes filled with tears. She then insisted on knowing what she wanted. And with a great effort, she said, “Miss Annie, could you lend me a quarter till Monday? I never asked it before,” Kind friends immediately supplied all the wants of the family, but on Monday Harriet appeared with the quarter she had borrowed.

But though so timid for herself, she is bold enough when the wants of her race are concerned. Even now, while friends are trying to raise the means to publish this little book for her, she is going around with the greatest zeal and interest to raise a subscription for her Freedmen’s Fair.

She called on Hon. Wm. H. Seward, the other day, for a subscription to this object. He said, “Harriet, you have worked for others long enough. It is time you should think of yourself. If you ask for a donation for yourself, I will give it to you; but I will not help you to rob yourself for others.”

Harriet’s charity for all the human race is unbounded. It embraces even the slaveholder–it sympathizes even with Jeff. Davis, and rejoices at his departure to other lands, with some prospect of peace for the future. She says, “I tink dar’s many a slaveholder ‘ll git to Heaven. Dey don’t know no better. Dey acts up to de light dey hab. You take dat sweet little child (pointing to a  lonely baby)–‘pears more like an angel dan anyting else–take her down dere, let her nebber know nothing ’bout niggers but they was made to be whipped, an’ she ‘ll grow up to use the whip on ’em jus’ like de rest. No, Missus, its because dey don’t know no better.”

May God give the people to whom the story of this woman shall come, a like charity, so that through their kindness the last days of her stormy and troubled life may be calm and peaceful.

Previously: Appendix I
Next: An Essay on Woman Whipping

This is part of a multi-part series published to celebrate Black History Month in 2012. The list of published posts can be found at Book Directory: Scenes In The Life Of Harriet Tubman. Use the Stay In Touch box below to recieve e-mail notifications about new posts.

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