Harriet Tubman

In recognition of Black History Month, I share this article about Harriet Tubman. She was known to have memorized large portions of the Bible even though she could not read. This tells me that someone spent a lot of time with her teaching her the Bible over and over. The article tells who that person was.

By Mark Ellis

She earned the nickname of ‘Moses’ because she led so many of her people from bondage in the house of slavery to the promised land of freedom along the Underground Railroad. A woman of deep Christian faith, she followed God’s voice and pursued the visions He planted in her heart to achieve true greatness.

Soon she will be honored as the first African American to be featured on U.S. currency.
Raised on a plantation in Maryland, her mother – a cook in the “big house” – taught her Bible stories. She came to faith in Jesus as her Savior and Lord at her mother’s apron strings.

While Tubman never learned to read, she had a phenomenal memory and memorized long passages of Scripture that informed her captivating oratory later in life.

In 1849, when Tubman was in her late twenties, she felt she heard the Lord’s voice urging her to flee northward. After an initial attempt with her two brothers that failed, she set out again by herself, hiding during daylight hours and traveling by night, fixing her eyes on the North Star for direction.

Tubman connected with the illustrious Underground Railroad, comprised of abolitionists, freed slaves, and Quaker activists to make her way. A Quaker community nearby was probably her first stop during her escape, according to Larson’s account.
Her journey of about 90 miles on foot probably took at least a week.

When Tubman crossed into Pennsylvania’s free soil she felt like she had been born again: “I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person now (that) I was free. There was such a glory over everything, the sun came like gold through the trees and over the fields, and I felt like I was in heaven.”

While filled with joy, Tubman soberly realized she must find a way to survive on her own. “Oh, how I prayed then,” Tubman recalled later, “lying on the cold, damp ground, ‘Oh, dear Lord, I ain’t got no friend but you. Come to my help, Lord, for I’m in trouble!’”
With God’s help and her newfound connections with abolitionists, she found odd jobs and saved a little money. When she learned her niece and two children would be sold in Maryland the year after her own escape, she made her way back to Baltimore and hid until she could make arrangements for their escape. Tubman was able to bring them with her to Philadelphia.

The following spring, she went to Maryland again to aid her brother’s escape, along with two other slaves.

Over 11 years, Tubman personally rescued at least 70 slaves in about 13 expeditions, including her three other brothers, Henry, Ben, and Robert, their wives and some of their children. She also assisted and directed 50 to 60 additional slaves who escaped to the north. Some have estimated she was ultimately responsible for liberating as many as 300 slaves.

Harriet Tubman is the famous one in the story, but it was her mother’s profound influence that prepared her for a lifetime. Who are you influencing to know and love God’s Word? Never underestimate the role you can play in someone else’s life!

8 comments to Harriet Tubman

  • Barbara

    Thank you so much for sharing this article, Janet. I plan to share the parts about memorizing Scripture with a precious 14 year old girl that we sponsor in Haiti to encourage both her and her mother to press on in memorizing Scripture.

    • We must all persevere to keep God’s Word continually in our minds and hearts. Our daily decisions depend on it. Otherwise our default is to do what is right in our own eyes.

  • Shari Blodgett

    What an amazing story! Thank you for sharing! God is so faithful–the Word of God makes an incredible difference! In our own lives and the lives of those we influence….incline our hearts, O Lord, to You and Your Word!

    • Hi Shari, I too was moved by the courage of this dear woman. She faced her fears with trust in God because she was fully convinced of his character. This can only come from God’s Word. Oh may we face our fears with courage in the same God!

  • Angela Hogan

    The life of Harriet Tubman is unarguably one of the most amazing, inspiring, and courageous stories in American, if not all, history. I remember doing a little project on her in elementary school and how fascinating I thought she was. I pray that she truly walked with the Lord throughout her life.

    Nevertheless, what scriptures are you currently working on to memorize, Janet? Or are you reviewing? In that case, what was the most recent thing you memorized? I like to hear about other people’s memory work as it’s inspiring to me. Thanks!

    • Hi Angela, I am working on two psalms: 51 and 96. I am teaching both of those this summer so I like to memorize them first which gives me a lot of insight before I start studying them.

  • Catherine

    My 5 and 7 year old children are influenced as I memorize God’s word. My 7 year old daughter is now asking me to recite the scriptures, while she checks and corrects me to make sure I memorize perfectly. In so doing, she is also memorizing and learning the Word of God. A few days ago while I was reciting Titus 1 to her, we were marveled by attributes of God as described in His Word. We paused and talked about how our God never lies, and His trustworthy Word, and oh, how refreshing!