Brown, Hallie Q.
In 1441 Negro slaves were introduced into Portugal; in 1474, Seville, Spain, had Negroes in abundance and their welfare was the special care of the joint sovereigns. A letter is extant signed by Ferdinand and Isabella describing a certain Negro as of noble birth, investing him with the title of Mayoral of the Negroes and giving him credit for 'sufficed ability and good disposition." This proves that all African slaves were not debased savages, that under human treatment they displayed the better phases of human nature, that not innate depravity but inhuman depression tended to lower them into a submerged stratum of sordid existence.
The entrance of the African into what is now the United States is at once a tale of glory and of shame. His presence remains a monument to the cupidity of those who abrogated to themselves inherent superiority. His survival and steady numerical increase despite oppression strongly confirms the facts of his innate power of endurance
In the Negro are fundamental traits which have insured his practical salvation. Negro faith, fidelity, patience, patriotism, have passed into proverbs. Negro imagination, optimism, appreciation of the artistic sense of humor, are the occasional stars illumining the habitual gloom of surrounding mists of insensate race prejudice. Therefore there is a broader than individual application implied in the forceful tribute written many years ago by Miss Pauline Hopkins in honor of Harriet Tubman. Of this grand women she speaks with rare delicacy, accuracy and appreciation: "Harriet Tubman, though one of earth's lowliest ones, displayed an amount of heroism in her character rarely possessed by those of any station of life. Her
Harriet was born a slave; at the immature age of six years hired out by a cruel master and mistress who surpassed him in fiendish ingenuity, she had literally no childhood. In her early teens she was put to work in the fields. There she followed the oxen, loaded and carried wood, for the work of a full grown man was expected of her. The hard work she performed and the heavy burdens she carried developed her physically until her feats of strength and muscular agility made her a wonder. Yet she suffered under the strokes of the lash as if she were one of the least willing or efficient. Till the day of her death her scarred shoulders and bruised back bore mute though eloquent testimony to the inhumanity of the customary plantation discipline. A blow on the head with a weight from the scales inflicted permanent injury. She had in consequence irregular fits of apparent insensibility. Her lucid moments were nevertheless frequent enough and lasted long enough for her to do some thinking and to the purpose. She at last decided she could no longer exist in the miasmatic atmosphere of thraldom; the prospect of being sold brought the matter to a crisis. Late one afternoon she set off singing, but with painful step and slow. Though her body was weak from deprivation, her spirit was brave and steadfast. She thought "there's two things I've got a right to--'Death or Liberty'--one or t'other I mean to have." That such a woman inspired by such a resolve should succeed is more a matter of admiration than of astonishment; that such a woman could be satisfied to become free while so many dear to her were still in bondage would have been indeed a surprise. A person of her
The struggles of the pioneer mothers of this great republic supply themes for many an absorbing romance, many a glowing verse of poetry; the equally unique tales of the self-abnegation of the black woman of the South are largely as yet traditional. Some day they will be enshrined in permanent form and the world will learn in detail what they effected by their exercise of indomitable will, enduring fidelity and unsullied faith. In no other way can the meed of simple justice be accorded a host of noble souls of whom Harriet Tubman was a distinguished representative.
When in the march of affairs Harriet found no further need for continuing her mission of mercy she transferred
In personal appearance Harriet was ordinary almost to repulsiveness; at most times she had a half vacant stare, and rarely when quiet seemed more than half awake. Yet her lack of education did not prevent the most cultured persons from listening absorbed to her strange eventful tales, told with the pathos and simplicity that bore conviction with their recital. She knew all the leaders in the abolition movement and had in her possession letters sent to her by patriots like Gov. Andrews of Massachusetts, William H. Seward, and other prominent persons. At Concord, a welcome was always in waiting for her, for Lowell, Emerson, Alcott, and Mrs. Horace Mann all respected, admired and placed implicit confidence in and reliance upon her truthfulness. She was practically purely true African, but her patience, foresight, devotion and sagacity put her apart and above the rank and file of those who have passed meritorious careers under ordinary conditions, and elevated her to that high citizenship in the realm of genius where race nor sex, extraneous circumstances nor color are given even passing consideration.
When the "cruel war" was over, on the way to a northern home with a soul overflowing with rejoicing, an unfeeling
Through the good offices of Hon. William H. Seward, Harriet was enabled to procure a tract of land in Auburn, N. Y. Upon this she built a cabin and there placed her parents whom she had rescued during her last journey south. She also erected a home for aged and indigent colored people upon the same tract. Compelled later to relinquish the charge of this, she surrendered all her interest in the same to a religious organization. Constantly soliciting from others for others, for a long time she helped to support two schools for freedmen.
At length the combined disabilities of permanent ill health and advancing age overcame her and she was found to be in an enfeebled, destitute condition. A philanthropic woman, Mrs. Sarah H. Bradford of Geneva, wrote her story; a generous citizen of Auburn gave it to the world, having had it published by subscription, so that the gross receipts could be devoted to her needs, and the Empire State Federation sent its president, Mrs. Mary B. Talbert of Buffalo to pay her an official visit. From thenceforth the comfort of this veteran was assured. The thoughtful ministration of the Federation did not cease with her life, but continued until her final resting place was fittingly marked with a simple, but appropriate shaft of stone. Harriet deeply appreciated the practical sympathy of those good women, her sisters by ties of lineage and race extraction. The last message she sent was this: "Tell the women to stick together. God is fighting for them and all will be well!"
Upon her decease the city of Auburn erected a tablet to her memory. This adorns one of the public buildings and upon it is inscribed the outlines of the life story of this woman whose charity was unbounded, whose wisdom, integrity, and patriotism enabled her to perform wonders in the cause of freedom.
"Harriet Tubman" uplift and betterment clubs are