Celebrating Black History Month: Harriet Tubman

There was one or two things I had a right to,
liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would
have the other; for no man should take me alive. . . .

Wanted: Dead or Alive
Harriet Tubman personally made 19 trips into the south, helping some 300 slaves escape to freedom. Because Tubman was so successful in helping slaves escape, she was hated by many slavemasters. By 1856, in fact, a reward of $40,000 was being offered for Tubman's capture. Wanted posters dotted the landscape of hundreds of small southern towns, making Tubman's dangerous missions even more dangerous. These posters included portraits, a description of Tubman's "crimes" against society, and reward information.

Design a sample wanted poster, then present your poster to the class. Try to convince classmates that Tubman is a dangerous person and should be captured. 

We Call Her "Moses"
Much as Tubman was hated by slave masters, she was loved by slaves. They called her "Moses," after the biblical character who led the nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt to freedom.

Imagine you are one of the 300 or so slaves rescued by Tubman and you learn of the many "wanted" posters that tell of her "crimes." Write a response to these posters. Do you think Tubman is a criminal? Why or why not? Write in such a way as to make others see this woman as you see her.

Free at Last
Some 300 slaves found their way to freedom with Harriet Tubman as their guide. Hundreds of others also found freedom because of her efforts. Imagine that you have lived your entire life in slavery. How would you feel should you finally escape to freedom? What would you do with your freedom? Write a letter to a friend describing your new-found freedom. Tell how your life has changed and how you feel about the changes.

Live Free or Die
Harriet Tubman believed she had a right to one of two things: freedom or death. Tubman vowed that she would die before returning to slavery. And Tubman "preached" her position to others.

Once slaves joined her ranks to make the journey to freedom, there was no turning back. Tubman carried a gun with her on each of 19 trips. If slaves became weary along the way and wanted to give up, she offer them a clear choice: Continue on, or die at her hands. She would allow no one to quit. She would permit no one to return to slavery. She would leave no one to be taken prisoner, no one to betray the safety of the group or to compromise the underground railroad.

Do you agree or disagree with Tubman's stand? Write an essay defending your position.

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E-mail it to ideas@theholidayzone.com!

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