Kaydian Mills, from our Payroll and Accounts Team, has shared her inspiration of Harriet Tubman in light of Black History Month.
Who is my inspiration?
She was an escaped enslaved women who became a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, leading enslaved people to freedom before the Civil War, all while carrying a bounty on her head. But she was also a nurse, a Union Spy and a women’s suffrage supporter. Tubman is one of the most recognised icons in American history and her legacy has inspired countless people from every race and background including myself.
Harriet Tubman was born around 1820 on a plantation in Dorchester County, Maryland. She had eight brothers and sisters, but the realities of slavery eventually forced many of them apart, despite her mother’s attempts to keep the family together. When Harriet was five years old, she was rented out as a nursemaid where she was whipped when they baby cried, leaving her with permanent emotional and physical scars. Around age seven Harriet was rented out to a planter to set muskrat traps and was later rented out as a field hand.
Harriet’s desire for justice became apparent at age 12 when she spotted an overseer about to throw a heavy weight at a fugitive. Harriet stepped between the enslaved person and the overseer – the weight struck her head. Her good dead left her with headaches and narcolepsy the rest of her life, causing her to fall into a deep sleep at random.
In 1840, Harriet’s parents owners died and in their will it was written that they be set free but their new owners refused and kept them in bondage. In 1849, Harriet planned her escape with her 2 brothers who were about to be sold to new owners. The brothers got scared and changed their minds but Harriet travelled 90 miles to Pennsylvania and freedom.
Harriet gained her freedom but wasn’t happy knowing that so many of her friends and family were still slaves. So she returned to the south to lead her niece and her niece’s children to Philadelphia via the Underground Railroad. Over the next ten years, Harriet befriended other abolitionists such as Frederick Douglas and Martha Coffin Wright, and established her own Underground Railroad network.
It is believed that Harriet personally led at least 70 enslaved people to freedom, including her elderly parents, and instructed dozens of others on how to escape on their own. She claimed, “I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Harriet found new ways to fight slavery. She was recruited to assist fugitive enslaved people at Fort Monroe and worked as a nurse, cook and laundress. Harriet used her knowledge of herbal medicines to help treat sick soldiers and fugitive enslaved people. Though just over five feet tall, Harriet was a force to be reckoned with.
How did they inspire me?
Throughout school we were taught about this woman who escaped slavery but went back. It just did not make sense to me when I was younger but as I grew older I started to understand. She was a selfless person who didn’t just think about herself and her happiness, she wanted the same for others around her. We often believe that as one person we can never make a difference but Harriet Tubman taught me that just wasn’t true. One person can make a difference to many others the difference you choose to make is up to you. Life sometimes throws hardships and obstacles in your way but if you have that drive and determination to succeed you will. It may be that bit harder and take that much longer but you will. Harriet didn’t let slavery or narcolepsy stop her from bein g a great human being so what excuse do we have.
Harriet has inspired me to be the best I can be no matter the circumstance. To always look out for other people, never be selfish and that even though I am just one person it doesn’t mean that I can’t change a 100 lives no matter how small.