Happy Mother's Day!
Well, today is Mother’s Day. Needless to say, it is an important time to reflect on the love, self-sacrifice and enduring work of our Mothers. One such Mother who embodied all of those attributes is a lady known as Araminta Ross. Barely any of you might have heard about her so let’s examine how God used this lady and her trauma to be such a blessing to enslaved people.
Bucktown, Maryland (USA) 1834: a young black girl stares defiantly into the eyes of a tall, white man. He orders her to restrain a black boy he plans to whip. The girl squares her diminutive shoulders, yelling at the man long enough to allow the boy to escape. Enraged, the man grabs a heavy weight off of the store counter and throws it at the boy, missing him. Instead, it strikes a forceful and brutal blow to the head of 13-year-old Araminta Ross, unleashing a life of head pain and migraine.
As Araminta was born a slave, she was deprived of medical care. After her head injury, reports say that she ‘slept’ for months – possibly a euphemism for a coma. In fact, historians say she experienced a lifetime of seizures, narcolepsy and migraine attacks.
A few years after the violent injury, she escaped north to freedom. She ran more than 90 miles by herself. Her husband threatened to turn her in to the authorities and her brothers, who began the journey with her, turned back in fear. As a runaway slave in the cold, she battled hunger, dehydration and animal predators, not to mention the migraine attacks, seizures and narcolepsy, which often caused her to pass out without warning.
She had little to no food for the length of her journey and her life was constantly in danger. Being illiterate, she could not even read the signs which could direct her north. Instead, being forced to travel at night to evade slave catchers and their hounds, she learned how to use the North Star to guide her on her journey to freedom.
When she first reached the North, she said (using the transcript of the day), “I looked at my hands to see if I was de same person now I was free. Dere was such a glory ober everything, de sun came like gold through de trees and ober de fields, and I felt like I was in heaven.” Araminta was not satisfied with her own freedom, however. She made 19 return trips to the South and helped deliver at least 300 fellow slaves, boasting “I never lost a passenger.”
At this stage, it is time to reveal the name she came to be known by, as some may start to connect the dots of this lady who was coined “Black Moses”. Araminta means “yielding to prayer” and “defender”. The name that she chose for herself, Harriet, means “ruler”. The incredible, courageous, resourceful woman who relied on her faith to defend and advocate for her people and herself is one who the history books name as Harriet Tubman.
Tubman’s friends and fellow abolitionists claimed that the source of her strength came from her faith in God as deliverer and protector of the weak. “I always tole God I’m gwine [going] to hole stiddy on you, an’ you’ve got to see me through”, she said. Despite her obvious faith, Tubman did threaten any slaves who were tempted to return to their master. If a slave wanted to quit in the midst of a rescue, Tubman would hold a revolver to his head and ask him to reconsider. There was always a fear that a returned slave would reveal the secrets of the underground rescue system and jeopardise the work. She never had to shoot any slave she helped, but she reportedly came close on one occasion.
Tubman said she would listen carefully to the voice of God as she led slaves north and she would only go where she felt God was leading her. Fellow abolitionist Thomas Garrett said of her, “I never met any person of any colour who had more confidence in the voice of God.” Today we thank God for Mothers who listen to His leading and lead not only their families but others who are lost under the slavery of sin.