Freedom Through Escape

Sophia Martin, Guest Writer

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I have been trying to escape slavery for almost two years now. It’s September 12, 1867 and I’ve never been more terrified in my entire life. I feel completely helpless. Just a few weeks ago I was torn away from my two kids and my husband, and left more broken than ever. Today I tried to escape, but was caught and whipped several times.  My back feels sore and aches from the pain. The scorching Maryland sun is beaming down on me causing me to feel extremely exhausted. All I want to do is run away from this hell and see my family again, and hug them and tell them how much I missed them.

***

As I started to pick cotton, I began to have flashbacks about that horrible moment in time when I lost my everything— my family.

“Violet Baker $20 going once, going twice, sold!” Everything in my body wanted to get up from where I was sitting and throw my fists at that man, but I had no control and no chance knowing that the moment I stood up one of the guards would quickly knock me to the ground. So I sat there helpless, afraid, pathetic. I watched with tears in my eyes as my family was quickly sold to other slave owners.

“Quiet miss,” I heard a voice from behind me say. I quickly whipped my head around to see my slave owner— the man who ruined my life. He is a tall, pale man with a beard that is almost down to shoulder length. With tears running down my warm face, I quickly replied, “yes sir” and got back to picking cotton. I have to get away; I have to try escaping again I thought to myself. Even though I know I would most likely be unsuccessful, I couldn’t bare the thought of never seeing my family again. So I began to concoct a plan to escape from the plantation. I had no idea where I would run to; I just knew I had to run far away, somewhere where no one could see me far away from this place. Suddenly I heard a loud voice call my name.  It was Mr. Jim Gram, my slave owner, quickly walking towards me and he appeared to be extremely angry. In shock I froze and didn’t know what to do.  Then all of a sudden a hand yanked my arm so hard that it felt as if it had broken. I stumbled to the ground because of the pain. “Get up, now, or I will whip you again!” Getting whipped was extremely painful so I tried my hardest to stand. As soon as I stood to my feet he grabbed my arm and yelled so loudly that I’m sure that people from miles away could here him. “IF I HAVE TO TELL YOU TO GET BACK TO WORK ONE MORE TIME I YOU I WILL WHIP YOU!.”  Yes, sir. I promise it won’t happen again.

As soon as the sun started to go down, I began to prepare to run away. I waited till it was very dark out and I was completely sure no one was awake. I opened the door gingerly and began to walk out into the cold night air. My heart was pounding in my chest so hard that It sounded as if it was trying to escape my chest. Just twenty more feet to go, I thought to myself. I just had to make it to the end of the hill and from there I was planning on running.

Then as I turned my head, and in the far distance, I saw a man on the porch. I was one hundred percent sure that he saw me, so I knew I had no option but to just run as fast as I possibly could. I started to run up the very steep hill as I heard the man call out to me “stop right now.  You don’t want to do that.  You will be severely beaten!” I was so determined to escape that his voice began to fade and all I could hear was the loud sound of my heart beating and the voice in my head saying, “you can’t stop now; you have to keep running.” So I continued to run. The rocks under my thin slippers began to slit holes in them causing my bare feet to bleed. The pain was so unbearable. Then suddenly I felt a hand grab my belt and pull me behind a large tree.  I just about screamed, but a hand quickly blocked my mouth. I opened my eyes and expected to see Mr. Jim Gram raging with anger but instead I saw a colored woman who looked to be in her thirties. “Calm down miss.  I’m not going to hurt you.” “My name is Harriet Tubman and I’m trying to escape slavery.” “I heard the noise of foot steps in the woods and when I saw your shadow I thought it might be a slave owner.”  But I am very relieved that your not him.” “What’s your name?” Still completely winded I replied, I-I am also trying to escape slavery. Then suddenly we heard the piercing noise of a gun shoot. I looked at Harriet with fear in my eyes but she seemed to be completely calm. “We need to go now.” She said so softly that I almost couldn’t hear her. I hesitated for a while not knowing if I could trust her to lead us to freedom considering that she’s never escaped herself. “Let’s go,” she said again. I know I needed help, so I followed her. We began to run and my legs were scraping up against rocks. I bit my tongue trying not to scream. When we were finally far away from the slave owners, Harriet began to tell me her plan. “I will teach you how to find the North Star, near the Big Dipper.  The North Star will guide us to the north where we can be free.  I will also show you how to move through the woods without making a sound.  As we moved through the woods, Harriet told me about the Quakers (they did not believe in slavery) who would use their homes to help us get to the North.  We walked through the dark woods for many days. We stopped at a Quaker woman’s house and she fed us and told us what to do next.  After many of those stops we finally made it to Pennsylvania.  Pennsylvania was a free state.   We were free at last!  I was not a slave any more!  Thank God for a family who who took me into their house and got me a job cooking and cleaning in a Philadelphia hotel.

 

 

Bibliography

Clinton, Catherine. Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom. 1st ed., Little, Brown, 2004.

Historical Society. Harriet Tubman. 2019, http://www.harriet-tubman.org/.

Michals, Debra. Harriet Tubman | National Women’s History Museum. 2015, https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/harriet-tubman.

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