Consider the Story

Posted by on January 24, 2015

A legislative column by Assemblyman Gary D. Finch (R,C,I-Springport)

It is so dark.

Hours ago, night fell over the marshlands dotting the banks of the Choptank River. You know they are looking for you.

During the day, you hide in plain sight. The slave catchers never look twice at a black woman with a broom in her hand. Night callously sweeps aside such normalized cover and ushers in a harsh reality for survival – make haste, hide and hope.

Pray that you defy the odds and secure liberty. Follow the North Star.

This was life for Harriet Tubman during her maiden voyage on the Underground Railroad – an ingenious, clandestine network with which she eventually became synonymous.

This is an exciting time for Auburn. Like us, Tubman made her home here. Recently, both houses of Congress passed legislation memorializing the abolitionist’s Auburn residence, the old folks’ home that bears her name, and the church she dutifully attended as a National Historical Park. It would be hard to overstate how overdue this designation is.

As is custom when important people are involved in important things, many flowery statements were delivered on Tubman’s behalf. They were (appropriately) adoringly complimentary and (simultaneously) inadequate.

History seems to atrophy the legends it wants to remember best because of how we talk about them. Instead of their amazing, cinematic stories driving their legacies, their legacies become thoughtlessly self evident. The discourse surrounding Harriet Tubman needs to be much more visceral than merely reading the glossary of a grade-school history book.

Mostly, I want everyone to really think about Harriet Tubman’s unbelievable life with some immediacy and accompanying introspection. After defeating every conceivable probability and danger, and risking everything to achieve life-sustaining freedom, would you have gone back to save your family? How about your friends? What about perfect strangers?

Can you imagine how dark it was at night? How cold? I invite you to really consider what it would be like to be hunted by other humans. Harriet Tubman’s exploits as the Underground Railroad’s boldest and best-known conductor (to say nothing of her patriotic service as a Union Army Spy) is underscored by something greater than selflessness or sacrifice – it was biblical heroism for the modern age.

They called her Moses for a reason.

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