“I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was on 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.”
My chosen eminent person this year is Harriet Tubman. She was an escaped slave and abolitionist who led other slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad before the American Civil War. During the war, she was a nurse and Union spy; she collected information for the Union to help take down the Confederates. She was a woman who embodied the revolutionary spirit that became prevalent as slavery became less and less accepted in society. As a woman of colour, Harriet Tubman is someone I wish to emulate because despite the racism and prejudice people of colour had to face in the 1800s, she, a person who faced many social disadvantages being both black and a woman, found liberation for herself and the other slaves she was able to aid.
The time periods we lived in contributed to a divergence in similarities between Harriet and myself, but there are still universal traits that I believe we share today. She had a passion for leadership and helping others, and through my experiences (not only within TALONS but in other areas of life) I’ve learned how leadership can influence the outcome of events and the effectiveness of a team working together. We both see the injustices of the world and hope to rectify them so the world can be a better place. Even if our views may differ from the societal norm, I think we’d both stand firm for what we believe in.
- Purely African ancestry
Harriet Tubman was an incredibly brave woman who helped others even at risk to her own person. She was valiant and courageous, shown when she stepped in the path of a two-pound weight meant for another slave that broke her skull, leaving her with lifelong somnolence and hallucinations. I could only hope to be as brave as she had been. She exemplifies my goals of selflessness, resourcefulness, teamwork, and unwavering vigilance in TALONS. The biggest difference between Harriet and I is that I’m of the middle class while Harriet wasn’t even considered a complete person to some in her day. The privilege I was born with will be the biggest barrier between the two of us, but I have yet to figure out how I’m going to incorporate it into my speech.
Harriet Tubman helped over 300 slaves make their way to freedom in the Northern United States. In addition, she was the head of an espionage unit in the Union army that helped inform about the Confederate’s supply routes and troops, and liberate more slaves to create black Union regiments. When settled after the war, she worked with notables like Susan B. Anthony on the women’s suffrage movement. In 1896 she opened the Harriet Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Coloured People, one of her many philanthropic efforts.
It’s been 105 years since Harriet Tubman died, yet she remains a symbol of hope and change to people all over the world. Her courage led to the liberation of some of her people and contributed to the outcome of the Civil War and the eventual abolishment of slavery in North America. It’s because of her actions that she was planned to replace Pres. Andrew Jackson on the front of the American $20 bill (an act that was put on the backburner by President Trump’s Treasury Department when he came into office) and be memorialized in American history.
From brain injury to slave owners and $40,000 bounties on her head, Harriet has had to overcome numerous impediments to liberate herself and her people. She overcame them by being resilient, even in the face of opposition from her own people. She would carry a shotgun with her on the Underground Railroad to keep skittish slaves from returning to their masters and revealing the existence of the Railroad. She wanted freedom and safety for her people, and though she feared being caught she kept pushing forward. I believe it was this tenacity that allowed her to overcome obstacles.
Harriet Tubman is one of the most notable figures in not only Black history but American history as well. The impact she made bettered the lives of those around her, and things may have been very different if she hadn’t performed the perilous acts that she had. In the many abolitionists I’ve researched, Harriet has been the one that I’ve personally connected to the most. Whether that’s due to our ancestry or her amazing story I’m not sure, but what I do know is that Harriet Tubman teaches us that standing up for ourselves and others and defying social norms for what we know is right can lead to positive change in the world around us.