Harriet Tubman: From Slave to Hero


Harriet Tubman
By woodcut artist not listed; W.J. Moses, printer; [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Liz Waid and Adam Navis tell the story of Harriet Tubman and her fight for freedom. She is famous for working to end slavery in the United States.

Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Adam Navis.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid . Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand - no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

A woman hurries through the dark forest. The North Star shines above her in the night sky. She walks towards it. She looks behind her. She is afraid that someone will see her. She is very tired. She has travelled for 145 kilometres. Finally, she reaches her goal. She crosses the border into the North. Her time as a slave is over.

Voice 3 

“I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land. I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person now I was free. There was such a glory over everything. I felt like I was in heaven."

Voice 2 

These are the words and story of Harriet Tubman. She is famous for working to end slavery in the United States. Today’s Spotlight is on Harriet Tubman and her fight for freedom.

Voice 1 

In the state of Maryland, a girl was born into slavery in 1820. Her parents named her Araminta Harriet Ross. She was to become Harriet Tubman. She was one of about one million Africans in slavery in the United States. Slave traders brought them over the ocean from Africa. The slaves worked hard, often on large farms. At this time it was legal in the United States for a person to own another person. Slaves had to work for no pay. They did not have the rights of free citizens.

Voice 2 

From the age of five, Harriet Tubman’s owners made her work very hard. First, she worked as a nurse, caring for the child of the farm owner. By the time she was 12 years old Tubman was doing hard physical work. She was not very tall but she was physically strong. Tubman plowed farm fields with oxen and carried heavy loads of wood.

Voice 1 

Harriet Tubman was also strong in spirit. She could not read or write. But she learned from her parents to do what was right. This included helping others. Through her whole life, Tubman put herself in danger for other people.

Voice 2 

One such act changed her life when she was 13 years old. Tubman was defending another slave. The man who was making her work got angry. He threw a heavy metal weight. It hit Tubman on the head. She was badly hurt but she survived. For the rest of her life, Tubman’s head wound caused problems for her. She had very bad headaches. She would also suddenly fall asleep – and often people could not wake her up.

Voice 1 

But the injury to her head also made Tubman stronger. Her Christian faith was the most important influence on her life. She was a very spiritual woman. She believed in a powerful God. She believed that God spoke to her and helped her. She said:

Voice 3 

“It was not me, it was the Lord. I always told him, 'I trust to you.’ I do not know where to go or what to do, but I expect you to lead me,' and He always did.”

Voice 2 

When she was about 25 years old, Harriet married a man named John Tubman. But she was still a slave. Her life was very difficult. So she planned an escape. We heard about Tubman’s escape to freedom at the beginning of the program. Once she crossed into the north, Tubman was a free woman.

Voice 1 

But Tubman could not leave her family enslaved in the south. So she travelled back to help them escape as well. She did not stop with her own family. She made many trips and guided many slaves to freedom.

Voice 2 

Tubman was not the only person helping slaves to escape. There were many free black Americans and white Americans who thought that slavery was wrong. They worked together to guide people to freedom. They created a system called the “Underground Railroad.”

Voice 1 

Slaves would travel to the North of the United States. Later, they travelled even farther north into Canada. Usually, they walked long distances. As the slaves escaped, people gave them rides, fed them and hid them in their houses. The slaves were like passengers on a path to freedom – like passengers on a train. This is why it was called the Underground Railroad. And Harriet Tubman was like a conductor – she helped people along the way. She said:

Voice 3 

"I was conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years. I can say what most conductors cannot say: I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger."

Voice 2 

Tubman led about 300 people to freedom. People began to call her “Moses”. Moses was a man in the Christian Bible. His people were also enslaved. He trusted God and led his people to a free land. Harriet Tubman did this too.

Voice 1 

But Tubman also fought in other ways. Starting in 1861 there was a Civil war in the United States. The northern states fought against the southern states. One of the main things they were fighting about was slavery. The North wanted to make slavery illegal. So Harriet Tubman fought for the North.

Voice 2 

Tubman served as a soldier, cook, nurse and spy. And the North won the civil war. In 1865 slavery became illegal in the United States. But even after the war, Harriet Tubman continued to fight for the rights of women and African Americans. She also helped old people.

Voice 1 

Harriet Tubman bought some land in the northern state of New York. She brought her parents here so that she could take care of them. Tubman saw a problem for many other old people who had been slaves. They did not have a place to live. She started a home for old African Americans. And when she grew old, Tubman lived there.

Voice 2 

Harriet Tubman died of pneumonia in 1913, at her house in New York. Her memory brings hope to many people – especially to those who fight for justice. She encouraged people to never give up.

Voice 3 

“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the fiery torches in the forest, keep going. If there's shouting after you, keep going. Do not ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.”

Voice 1 

The writer and producer of this program was Rena Dam. The voices you heard were from the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Harriet Tubman: From Slave to Hero’.

Voice 2 

You can also leave your comments on our website. Or you can email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

What would you risk to help others? Would you risk something as important as your life?

Comments


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Blue Lotus
said on July 19, 2012

She is the strongest woman I’ve heard!

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daruba
said on July 20, 2012

Great example! May Harriet’s flame never be extinguished! For even today, we have to fight to defend freedoms and rights…

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EBY
said on July 22, 2012

I hate slavery .But I think another kind of slavery is running in some parts of the world.wealthy people by the help of their money can have lots of employees that they have to work for them without any rights to protest.You know why ? They are poor people who do not have any choices and it is difficult for them to find a better job easily so they have to tolerate this situation .what do you think ?

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Maged Elias
said on October 07, 2013

Hey! I’m Maged from Egypt, I think we have to fight for the freedom all over the world.

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Cemil
said on October 09, 2013

Heroic steps to freedom

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tranthitrangtelcom
said on October 11, 2013

Harriet Tubman is a strongest woman because she helped herself and slaveres to freedom. I admire her.

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Dela
said on October 11, 2013

Harriet Tubman didn’t only think about herself, she mainly wanted to help many other people escape from slavery. The strong belief in God gave her the power to keep the courage, hope, endurance during her lifetime. She was really astonishing woman, her fighting for freedom and the rights of the slaves should never be forgotten.
Thanks for a great article!

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thanhdung07121985@gmail.com
said on January 27, 2015

Society has been always separated many background through many centuries.Slave background is the lowest and poorest one in society.They suffer bad behaviour and have to work hard to serve backgrounds governing them.Even they are beated cruelly until deadth.So they have to struggle to defend freedom and rights.Nowadays,we live in civilized and model society.But slavery still exists somewhere in the world.I hope all people have a fair live and freedom,happiness.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on May 27, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Friday 27, May 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Rena Dam, and Adam Navis:

First of all, I want to thank you to bring us readers and learners of English more one important article.
Yes, I would. Yes, I would. This story that I am going to tell you happened a long time ago. One day, when I lived in Pernambuco I was at Boa Viagem beach in Recife. Boa Viagem beach is a famous beach and beautiful beach of Recife Pernambuco. The State where I was born. This beach is very beaufiful and dangerous beacuse there are very brave sharks into the sea.  So, I was there on the sand and I was looking for to the ocean in a very quiet way together with my nephews, nieces, and friends. Suddenly, we heard a boy shouting very loud. The boy was 10 years old and asked to help him because he was dying and his right arm was very hurt.  My nephews, nieces, and friends did not know to swim. Only I knew to swim. However, Immediately, I dived into the water to save the poor boy so I pulled him by his T-shirt from the water to the sand. He had drunk a lot of salted water and his right arm was very hurt with much blood. The shark injured his right arm but Thank God the shark hurt only the his muscle arm. Therefore, we called an ambulance to take him to the hospital to get the cure from his damage from the shark. Also, fortunately, in that moment there are many lifeguards who help me to save the poor boy from the shark. The surgeon doctor did a minor sugery on his right arm and after three days the poor boy returned to his house with his family and got the cure about the damage in his right arm. Besides, my job is nurse so I have to help people even when I am not working into the hospital because I was prepared to do that and I did an oath to God to help people in bad condition of health, when I finished my university of nursing at Mogi das Cruzes University here in Brazil.

Yours regards,
Severino Ramos
Brazil

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on May 27, 2016

This story confirms on black history for Amerca and western generaly.
Respect

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Mabel Estrella
said on May 27, 2016

In this time, there are different kinds of enslaved, for examples the goverments laws, where you can’t do many things. In countries of southAmerica there isn’t democracy in special
leftist government, However they say that they work in favor of poor peolpe but it isn’t the true, only they damage the production and attak the private sector for that reason the investor won’t go to these countries, it affects becuase there aren’t employment and money to help the economy.

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KatyBlake
said on May 31, 2016

Severino Ramos, thank you for sharing your amazing story.