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Riding the Rails of the Freedom Train

(The Title CAN be the name of the person, but try and be more creative!)

Edmund Burke once said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Slavery is evil, and yet it was allowed to exist in the United States for 245 years. In her compelling biography, simply titled Harriet Tubman, Marion Dane Bauer brings to life the story of a colonial hero and her fight against slavery. Not only was Tubman able to save herself from the shackles of servitude, she had the courage to save others as well. Bauer’s biography clearly illustrates the fact that Harriet Tubman was an agent of change in a time of immoral actions and blatant abuse of human rights.

Body (Setting/situation)

In 1619, the Dutch introduced the first captured Africans to America, planting the seeds of a slavery system that evolved into a nightmare of abuse and cruelty that would ultimately divide the new nation of the United States. “To be a slave meant that someone else owned you” (Bauer 4). These initial slaves proved to be so profitable for the early colonists that in 1641 slavery was legalized. Since human rights were denied to these stolen Africans, they were considered no more than cattle. Therefore, slave owners claimed they had the right to abuse, buy, and sell them. It was even common for slave owners of the South to separate the Africans from their own families. Slave owners thrived under the shelter of legally authorized violence, and this resulted in a miserable and almost hopeless life for the slaves (Patterson 2009). Many slaves sought to escape their servitude, but slave owners were adamant about keeping their “property.” Some were even fined if they did not capture their runaway slaves. Eventually, opposition rose against slavery, but mostly in the North. Subsequently, the North became a refuge for the Southern slaves. Escaping the South to freedom in the North, however, required a tremendous amount of courage, strength, and luck.

Body (Accomplishments)

“Harriet didn’t want to be a slave. She wanted to be free” (Bauer 7). Born a slave on Maryland’s eastern shore, Tubman endured the harsh existence of working in the fields. A life as a field slave meant that she suffered frequent and brutal beatings. In 1849, she ran away to Philadelphia. Her freedom came at a price, however, as Tubman left her family behind in order to escape. Despite a bounty on her head, she returned to the South at least 19 times to lead her family and hundreds of other slaves to freedom using the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was neither underground nor a railroad. It got its name because its activities had to be carried out in secret, and because railway terms were used to describe how the system worked. Various escape routes were lines, stopping places were called stations, those who aided along the way were conductors and their charges were known as packages or freight (Patterson 2009). Although Tubman became its most famous “conductor,” her involvement in the fight for human rights went beyond the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War, “Harriet became a nurse, a cook, and a spy. She even led troops to rescue more slaves” (Bauer 19). According to historians, Tubman’s nineteen return trips to the South helped some 300 slaves to escape (Patterson 2009). More than the hundreds of people she freed, she served as an inspiration of hope in a time of hopelessness. She was a symbol of freedom; as such Tubman was a true agent of change.

Conclusion (Application: who inspired/was inspired by this person)

Although slavery was outlawed in 1865, the fight for equality and human rights continued. For nearly a hundred years after the abolishment of slavery, blacks in the United States still suffered under legally imposed racial segregation. Segregation, as practiced then, was understood to provide blacks with accommodations that were “separate but equal.” The treatment of blacks, however, was anything but equal. In 1955, Rosa Parks, a black woman living in Montgomery, Alabama, literally would not stand for it any longer. Part of the segregation policy required blacks to give up their seats to whites on public buses. One day, Parks refused to give up her bus seat as she felt it unconstitutional. “I felt that it was not right to be deprived of freedom when we were living in the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free” (“Rosa Parks Biography”). The bus driver saw things differently, and had her arrested. Little did he know, this small woman’s huge act of courage would inspire the Montgomery Bus Boycott led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As blacks across Montgomery boycotted the public bus system, the boycott earned national attention, and served as the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement. Rosa Park’s defiant act in the face of injustice, and her subsequent work in the movement, earned her the nickname the Mother of Civil Rights (“Rosa Parks Biography”). Like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks took action when others would not. These are two women who were agents of change in the area of human rights; two women who refused to see the triumph of evil in their time.

Works Cited:

Bauer, Marion Dane. Harriet Tubman. New York: Scholastic. 2010. Print.

Patterson, Tiffany R. Harriet Tubman., 2009. Web. April 8, 2015.
“Rosa Parks Biography-Academy of Achievement.” Academy of Achievement, 26 Feb. 2010. Web. 13 April 2015.
“Rosa Parks’ Emotional Journals on Display.” Tribune Washington Bureau, Newsela. February 16, 2015. Web.
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