Freedom Lover

Freedom Lover

By Kathy Barr

 

 

 

History is a subject that absolutely fascinates some. Others, though, have a hard time understanding why we bother to study the past. “Those who don’t study the past are doomed to repeat it,” is a saying that teachers often repeat when asked this question. In addition, {{more}} they might say that valuable lessons can be learned from watching how, in the past, people deal with life’s struggles and challenges. So how can one make history interesting, especially to the young, who stand to benefit the most from its study? Perhaps one way is to teach them to put themselves in the place of the person they are studying. What would motivate them to act in the way they did? Why would they take the chances that others were unwilling to take? Take Harriet Tubman, for instance. Here we have a black slave, who, in the culture of the day, was one of the most powerless people on the face of the earth. What gave her the courage to escape? Harriet’s faith in God made her the woman she was – a woman of courage and perseverance, in spite of the many odds that faced her. How did she feel about being a slave? What motivated her to escape from the farm where she lived and worked in Maryland? Would it have been a strong yearning to be free, a strong sense of the evil of slavery? Was she angry about being in subjection to a white man and having to deal with the beatings? Perhaps it was a mixture of all of these feelings. Most importantly, though, was her faith, that made her realize that people deserved to be treated like humans, not animals. Even more significantly, what caused her to decide to return and help free more than 300 other slaves? Didn’t she realize the danger in which she was placing her life? Did she ever feel fearful about her fate or the fate of the ones she rescued? How did she overcome her fear? Again, her faith. Her love of her fellow man could not allow her to enjoy freedom without offering it to others who were enslaved. According to Thomas Garret, a stationmaster on the underground railroad, where Harriet brought her charges so they could gain their freedom, Harriet seemingly felt no fear. “She seemed wholly devoid of personal fear. The idea of being captured by slave holders and slave hunters seemed never to enter her mind.” When she first met a slave who indicated a desire for freedom, there was one thing that Harriet made perfectly clear. There was no turning back. If someone decided they wanted to return and be a slave again, Harriet told them that she had no option but to end their life. “A live runaway could do great harm by going back, but a dead one could tell no secrets,” she would inform her charges. Needless to say, no one ever indicated that they wanted to return to a life of slavery. We live in a different world today in the United States. Thankfully, slavery has been illegal since the mid-1800’s. So, why study about it? There are several reasons. For one, there is still injustice in the world. Prejudice and racism has not been eradicated. We are fortunate to live in a society that allows freedom of speech. Speak up on behalf of those who have dealt with the ugly realities of racism. It takes courage to speak up for those dealing with injustice, whether yourself or others. Individuals like Harriet Tubman faced their fears and, with God’s help, conquered them. You can do the same! In an age where some are questioning the role of faith in life, people like Harriet Tubman shine as examples of the power of faith. A relationship with God produces courage, perseverance and the willingness to sacrifice for others.