Art History: Harriet Tubman
The artwork above depicts a heroine in the slave trade, Harriet Tubman, rescuing thousands of slaves and freeing them (History. Com Editors, paragraph 1). The slave trade, which began in the 16ththCentury transported millions of Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to America (History. Com Editors, para 1). Africans would be exchanged with other valuable goods from America (Marques, Leonardo, p.650). Slaves worked on plantations and as housemaids. The slaves worked in harsh conditions as they had no time to rest and were also treated harshly. Slaves had no right to express their views or interact freely with whites. Harriet Tubman was born during this time of the slave trade.
Harriet Tubman was born to her slave parents in Maryland (History. Com Editors, para. 1). Her real name was Araminta Ross, which she later changed to Harriet, after her mother. Tubman was her first husband's name. Harriet grew up in slavery and by the age of twelve had become a very resilient slave (Bradford, Sarah, p. 30). In Maryland, the lines between slavery and freedom were not clear, as some family members were free while others were slaves (Bradford, Sarah, p. 30). Her woes began at age five, when she was hired out as a nanny (History. Com Editors, paragraph 2). One would not work in one position for long and they would be transferred to other stations, for example from housework to plantations (History. Com Editors, paragraph 3). When Harriet came of age, she married a free black man, Tubman (Bradford, Sarah, p. 50). During this time, she learned that her father's owner had left a will to set him free, but his current owner refused to set him free, leading Harriet to plan an escape. Harriet was set for either liberty or death (Bradford, Sarah, p. 55). She was determined to end slavery and live as a freeborn. The escape journey was the most difficult, as those caught helping the slaves escape were severely punished.
Harriet escaped from slavery in 1849, where she traveled north to Pennsylvania on the Underground Railroad (History. Com Editors, para. 5). After escaping, she joined the Underground Railroad to save the other slaves and her family. She acted as conductor of the Underground Railroad. The white and black abolitionists who founded the Underground Railroad provided Harriet with food and safe houses to rescue slaves. The activities in the subway went unnoticed. In 1850, legislation was passed through the Slave Fugitive Act to capture and enslave freed slaves in the North.
Also, hefty promises were made as to who would catch Harriet and return it to her owners. Harriet had to change her route and ended up further north to Canada, where she took the escaped slaves with her. The gun in her hands in the artwork was for her safety and to scare her followers and change their minds. She had also devised other safety measures, such as stunning the children to silence them and avoid being heard and mugged, which could have ended their countless journeys (History. Com Editors, paragraph 5). During her efforts, she joined other abolitionists and founded her subway.
In 1861 Harriet treated sick soldiers and refugees during the Civil War, as she also knew herbal medicine (Bradford, Sarah, p. 150). She later advanced and became a spy and continued to free slaves. Harriet was highly skilled as a spy, having learned cities and safe transportation routes through the Underground Railroad. As a spy, she showed routes to military troops as she was familiar with the safe routes by which to escape from the slaves, and she could also carry supply lines where she helped the slaves get food and shelter. She also employed these freed slaves. The freed slaves later formed Black Union regiments to fight slavery.
After the war, Harriet continued her mission to help freed slaves earn a living and build their lives (Bradford, Sarah, p. 200). She would receive help from other philanthropists, which helped her continue to help the freed slaves. In addition, Harriet bought land, farmed, and kept her elderly parents and other freed slaves (History. Com Editors, para 7). She went on and joined the women's suffrage movement to gain the right to vote. During this time, women had no right to vote or even property rights. Women were taken as man's property and placed in institutions to bear children and take care of the household. Having the right to vote was one such achievement as it allowed women to voice their views and concerns. She worked alongside Fredrick Douglass during subway operations and later with Susan Anthony on women's suffrage (History. Com Editors, para. 6). With her endless efforts she raised money and bought the land on which she built a house for old and needy colored people and named it after her in 1896 (History. Com Editors, paragraph 6). She continued her work until 1911, when a head injury overwhelmed her and she moved into the house she had built for the elderly (Bradford, Sarah, p. 250). The blow that fractured her skull came from a heavy weight hitting her as she tried to stand between a master and a slave. Harriet would not endure another enslaved person being treated harshly without doing anything (History. Com Editors, paragraph 7). It was 1913 when pneumonia claimed her life.
Harriet left a rich legacy and is considered one of the world's black heroines. Harriet Tubman's art was created by Freedom Art and other artists have taken an interest in her fine work. Liberty Ships were also named after Harriet during World War II. Additionally, during the $20 bill, the United States Treasury announced that the image of former President and slave owner Andrew Jackson would be replaced with that of Harriet Tubman (History. Com Editors, para 9). Although the process was delayed during former President Trump's administration, the new administration under President Bidden promised to expedite the design process.
Dubbed the largest forced migration in human history, the transatlantic slave trade could not have ended without Harriet Tubman's affections. The slave trade ended in 1807 because of the Haitian rebellion (Marques, Leonardo, p.990). The enslaved could no longer endure the abuse and had to speak out. The slave trade was brutal and humane, and it was against the will of God. During the Haitian Revolution in the 18thAt the beginning of the 20th century many countries gave in and ended the slave trade (Marques, Leonardo, p.950). The Haiti Rebellion was notable for coinciding with the uprising of the French Revolution and reprisals against enslaved communities in British colonies. Harriet Tubman will remain an iconic woman for generations to come. She is a strong woman who is not self-centered. It is hard for someone to willingly submit to pain for the sake of others. Harriet Tubman's actions gave hope to the other slaves that one day they would gain freedom, which later happened.
Bradford, Sarah H. Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman. E-artnow, 2018.
Story. Com Editors. Harriet Tubman, 2021. Accessed 6thMarch 6, 2021, fromhttps://www.history.com/topics/black-history/harriet-tubman
Marques, Leonardo. The United States and the Transatlantic Slave Trade to America, 1776-1867. Yale University Press, 2016.