After a week had gone by no one seemed to mention the slaves that were last seen leaving with the white woman. To the slave quarters everyone went to end the work day.
The story goes, the men that were taken days before returned to rescue their loved ones. They were given strict instructions as well as papers just in case any of them were stopped while on their way to freedom.
After trucking through the woods a quarter of a mile they arrived upon a river with a boat awaiting them. In the boat was Catherine Devereux with supplies along with instructions on what was to happen next.
“Everyone hurry there isn’t much time,” said Devereux, hurrying everyone, grabbing the children that were too small to help themselves inside. Once inside, the boat headed out following the North star.
“Where are we going?” asked a little girl while clenching her mother’s arm tightly.
“I’m taking you to a place to call home, far from here,” whispered Devereux.
It was clear she had done this before.
“Done what before?,” asked Zoe.
“Travel from plantation to plantation rescuing slaves,” answered her mother.
“Did Miss Devereux and the slaves get away?,” asked Zoe.
“It is believed so.”
“Did Miss Devereux have to save any other slaves?,” asked Zoe.
“There were always slaves that needed to be saved,” answered her mother.
“Do you have any other stories about Catherine Devereux?”
“Yes, but she was known by other names.”
“So this story was told to you by great grandma?,” asked Zoe.
“Your great great grandmother told me, her mother told her, and her mother before her,” said Zoe’s mother. “It is said that Catherine Devereux is a descendant of our family. She was known as a hero.
“Slavery was a horrible system created to destroy both women and men.”
“Wouldn’t women have had it easier than men?,” asked Zoe.
“Not at all my dear, enslaved women had to endure the sexual abuse by slave owners and overseers. Slave owners would often forcibly pair strong men and women in hopes of producing strong children they could sell at a high price.”
“That’s like what farmers do with cattle,” said Zoe.
“Your right, but remember slaves were treated like cattle,” said her mother.
“Where there other women who risked their lives for others?,” asked Zoe.
“Of course, the name Harriet Tubman should ring a bell?,” asked her mother.
“Of course,” replied Zoe.
“Well did you know that during a ten-year span she made 19 trips into the South and escorted over 300 slaves to freedom?,” asked her mother.
“No,” replied Zoe.
“Well what did you know?,” asked her mother.
“That she was a conductor on the Underground Railroad,” smiled Zoe.
“Is that all?,” asked her mother.
“I can’t remember all of the details,” said Zoe.
Harriet Tubman was born a slave in Maryland’s Dorchester County around 1820. At the age of five or six, she began to work as a house servant. Seven years later she was sent to work in the fields.
Around 1844 she married a free black man named John Tubman and took his last name. (She was born Araminta Ross; she later changed her first name to Harriet, after her mother.)
In 1849, in fear that she, along with the other slaves on the plantation, were to be sold, she considered running away. She set out one night on foot.
She followed the North Star by night, making her way to Pennsylvania and soon after to Philadelphia, where she found work and saved her money. The following year she returned to Maryland and escorted her sister and her sister’s two children to freedom.
She made the dangerous trip back to the South soon after to rescue her brother and two other men. On her third return, she went after her husband, only to find he had taken another wife. Undeterred, she found other slaves seeking freedom and escorted them to the North.”
“So she risked her own life to save others?,” asked Zoe.
“This was something that she felt she needed to do. It was brave and she was considered courageous for doing this,” said her mother.
“How is it that she was able to free so many slaves?,” asked Zoe.
“According to stories she came up with clever techniques that helped make her escapes successful. She would use the master’s horse and buggy for the first part of the journey; leaving on a Saturday night, since runaway notices couldn’t be placed in newspapers until Monday morning; turning about and heading south if she encountered possible slave hunters. She carried a drug to use on a baby if its crying might put the fugitives in danger. She even carried a gun which she used to threaten the fugitives if they became too tired or decided to turn back. Her saying was, “You’ll be free or die.”
“So that’s how she dealt with slaves that changed their minds about running away. She had a gun?,” asked Zoe.
“Of course during these times some were so afraid of being captured that they would jeopardize everyone else’s safety,” said her mother.
“What else happened?,” asked Zoe.
“By 1856, it is said that her capture would have brought a $40,000 reward from the South. On one occasion, she overheard some men reading her wanted poster, which stated that she was illiterate. She promptly pulled out a book and pretended to read. It was enough to fool the men. She became known as Moses,” said her mother.
“She was spoken highly of by others. Which confirms that she was a real heroine,” stated Zoe.
The next day in school I couldn’t help but feel like my teacher was teaching the half-truth when it came to history. So much had been left out and had to be filled in by my mother. I didn’t know how to go on with the rest of the school year without feeling like my teacher wasn’t qualified to teach me about my history, being an African American student.