African-American abolitionist and humanitarian
- I prayed all night long for my master. Till the first of March; and all the time he was bringing people to look at me, and trying to sell me. I changed my prayer. First of March I began to pray, 'Oh Lord, if you ain't never going to change that man's heart, kill him, Lord, and take him out of the way'.
- As quoted in Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman (1971), by Sarah Hopkins Bradford, Freeport: Books for Libraries Press, pp. 14-15.
- I can't die but once.
- As quoted in The Underground Railroad (1987) by Charles L. Blockson
- I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can't say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.
- As quoted in Women's Words : The Columbia Book of Quotations by Women (1996) by Mary Biggs, p. 2
Harriet, The Moses of Her People (1886) edit
- I looked at my hands, to see if I was de same person now I was free. Dere was such a glory over everything, de sun came like gold trou de trees, and over de fields, and I felt like I was in heaven.
- On realizing that she had passed out of the slavery states into the northern states
- Modernized rendition: I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person now that I was free. There was such a glory over everything. The sun came up like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in heaven.
- I knew of a man who was sent to the State Prison for twenty-five years. All these years he was always thinking of his home, and counting by years, months, and days, the time till he should be free, and see his family and friends once more. The years roll on, the time of imprisonment is over, the man is free. He leaves the prison gates, he makes his way to his old home, but his old home is not there. The house in which he had dwelt in his childhood had been torn down, and a new one had been put up in its place; his family were gone, their very name was forgotten, there was no one to take him by the hand to welcome him back to life.
So it was wid me. I had crossed de line of which I had so long been dreaming. I was free; but dere was no one to welcome me to de land of freedom, I was a stranger in a strange land, and my home after all was down in de old cabin quarter, wid de ole folks, and my brudders and sisters. But to dis solemn resolution I came; I was free, and dey should be free also; I would make a home for dem in de North, and de Lord helping me, I would bring dem all dere. Oh, how I prayed den, lying all alone on de cold, damp ground; 'Oh, dear Lord,' I said, 'I haint got no friend but you. Come to my help, Lord, for I'm in trouble!'
- Modernized rendition: So it was with me. I had crossed the line of which I had so long been dreaming. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom, I was a stranger in a strange land, and my home after all was down in the old cabin quarter, with the old folks, and my brothers and sisters. But to this solemn resolution I came; I was free, and they should be free also; I would make a home for them in the North, and the Lord helping me, I would bring them all there. Oh, how I prayed then, lying all alone on the cold damp ground; 'Oh, dear Lord', I said. I haven't got no friend but you. Come to my help Lord, for I'm in trouble!
- Oh, Lord! You've been wid me in six troubles, don't desert me in the seventh!
- Modernized rendition: Oh, Lord! You've been with me in six troubles, don't desert me in the seventh!
- I had reasoned dis out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty, or death; if I could not have one, I would have de oder; for no man should take me alive; I should fight for my liberty as long as my strength lasted, and when de time came for me to go, de Lord would let dem take me.
- Modernized rendition: I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was one of 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; I should fight for my liberty as long as my strength lasted, and when the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.
- The phrase "Liberty or Death" is a slogan made famous during the independence struggle of several countries.
Quotes about Tubman edit
- Alphabetized by author
- The vision that impels feminists to action was the vision of the Grandmothers' society, the society that was captured in the words of the sixteenth-century explorer Peter Martyr nearly five hundred years ago. It is the same vision repeated over and over by radical thinkers of Europe and America, from François Villon to John Locke, from William Shakespeare to Thomas Jefferson, from Karl Marx to Friedrich Engels, from Benito Juarez to Martin Luther King, from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Judy Grahn, from Harriet Tubman to Audre Lorde, from Emma Goldman to Bella Abzug, from Malinalli to Cherrie Moraga, and from Iyatiku to me. That vision as Martyr told it is of a country where there are "no soldiers, no gendarmes or police, no nobles, kings, regents, prefects, or judges, no prisons, no lawsuits... All are equal and free."
- Paula Gunn Allen The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions (1986)
- The love of democracy motivated Harriet Tubman to seek and find not only her own freedom, but to make innumerable trips to the slave South to gain the liberty of many slaves and instill the idea into the hearts of thousands that freedom is possible.
- Maya Angelou Letter to My Daughter (2009)
- I bring you one of the best and bravest persons on this continent — General Tubman as we call her.
- Little Shirley grew up with a strong sense of her own destiny. Her early heroes were Mary McLeod Bethune, Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony.
- April 1969 article in Shirley Chisholm: The Last Interview: And Other Conversations (2021)
- I’m obsessed with Harriet Tubman. I’m obsessed with, what was it like to walk in her shoes and to face her fears? So I always want to reach back and be like, OK, well, now what is the Harriet Tubman activity to do, in this time? And what is Harriet Tubman up to in 2063? — because there’s always someplace that needs justice and liberation.
- When she made it to freedom after having been a slave and she got to New York and she could have been so happy to just stay at home and just breathe a big sigh of relief but she kept going back down South to bring other freed slaves to freedom. And she used to say, "No matter what happens, keep going."
- When slaves sang, "Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home, they may have appeared to be evoking freedom in the afterlife, but wasn't it true that they were also singing about Harriet Tubman-the chariot, Harriet, who rescued so many women and men, helping them to discover freedom in this life?
- 1992 interview in Conversations with Angela Davis Edited by Sharon Lynette Jones (2021)
- Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day — you in the night. I have had the applause of the crowd and the satisfaction that comes of being approved by the multitude, while the most that you have done has been witnessed by a few trembling, scarred, and foot-sore bondmen and women, whom you have led out of the house of bondage, and whose heartfelt " God bless you " has been your only reward. The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown — of sacred memory — I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have. Much that you have done would seem improbable to those who do not know you as I know you. It is to me a great pleasure and a great privilege to bear testimony to your character and your works, and to say to those to whom you may come, that I regard you in every way truthful and trustworthy.
- I never met any person of any color who had more confidence in the voice of God.
- Thomas Garrett, as quoted in Sounding Forth the Trumpet : 1837-1860 by Peter Marshall and David Manuel, p. 358
- We have a woman in our country who has received the name of "Moses," not by lying about it, but by acting out -a woman who has gone down into the Egypt of slavery and brought out hundreds of our people into liberty. The last time I saw that woman, her hands were swollen. That woman who had led one of Montgomery's most successful expeditions, who was brave enough and secretive enough to act as a scout for the American army, had her hands all swollen from a conflict with a brutal conductor, who undertook to eject her from her place. That woman, whose courage and bravery won a recognition from our army and from every black man in the land, is excluded from every thoroughfare of travel.
- Frances Harper "We Are All Bound Up Together" (1866)
- Numerous American heroes-such as Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, and Henry David Thoreau-led rebellious acts to reconcile the government's actions with the country's promise of liberty for all its citizens.
- Carl Hart Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear (2021)
- We have had the greatest heroine of the age here, Harriet Tubman, a black woman, and a fugitive slave, who has been back eight times secretly and brought out in all sixty slaves with her, including all her own family, besides aiding many more in other ways to escape. Her tales of adventure are beyond anything in fiction and her ingenuity and generalship are extraordinary. I have known her for some time and mentioned her in speeches once or twice — the slaves call her Moses. She has had a reward of twelve thousand dollars offered for her in Maryland and will probably be burned alive whenever she is caught, which she probably will be, first or last, as she is going again. She has been in the habit of working in hotels all summer and laying up money for this crusade in the winter. She is jet black and cannot read or write, only talk, besides acting.
- Thomas Wentworth Higginson in a letter to his mother (17 June 1859), as published in Letters and Journals of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1846-1906 (1921), p. 81
- According to Tubman’s own words, and extensive documentation on her rescue missions, we know that she rescued about 70 people – family and friends – during approximately 13 trips to Maryland ... In addition to the family and friends, Tubman also gave instruction to another 70 or so freedom seekers from the Eastern Shore who found their way to freedom on their own.
- In the 1970s we were rediscovering women whose lives had been dropped out of history or distorted, like Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, Emily Dickinson, Marie Curie, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Hannah Senesch, Ethel Rosenberg.
- Adrienne Rich Arts of the Possible (2001)
- While she was certainly a nurse, spy, and scout for the Union Army, I think the claims that she was the first female general and commanded a raid are wishful thinking.
- I have known Harriet long, and a nobler, higher spirit or a truer, seldom dwells in human form.
- Harriet Tubman, like John Mason, did not reckon the value of her own liberty in comparison with the liberty of others who had not tasted its sweets. Like him, she saw in the oppression of her race the sufferings of the enslaved Israelites, and was not slow to demand that the Pharaoh of the South should let her people go. She was known to many of the anti-slavery leaders of her generation; her personality and her power were such that none of them ever forgot the high virtues of this simple black woman.
- Wilbur Henry Siebert in The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom (1898), p. 185
- I am where I am because of the bridges that I crossed. Sojourner Truth was a bridge. Harriet Tubman was a bridge. Ida B. Wells was a bridge. Madam C. J. Walker was a bridge. Fannie Lou Hamer was a bridge.
- Oprah Winfrey, as quoted in Chicken Soup for the African American Woman's Soul (2006) by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Lisa Nichols, p. 1
- Herself born a slave, she first tasted the sweets of liberty in 1849. She subsequently made nineteen excursions south and brought off over three hundred fugitives from bondage.
- W. H. Withrow, in "The Underground Railway" (27 May 1902) as published in Proceedings and Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Second series, Vol. 8 (1902), p. 61
- She made nineteen dangerous trips back and forth, often disguised, escorting more than three hundred slaves to freedom, always carrying a pistol, telling the fugitives, "You'll be free or die." She expressed her philosophy: "There was one of 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...."
- Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States
- Jailbreak Out Of History, a re-biography of Harriet Tubman by Butch Lee
- Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman (1869) online at University of North Caroliina
- Harriet, The Moses of Her People (1886) online at University of North Caroliina
- Harriet, The Moses of Her People at Project Gutenberg
- Harriet Tubman Biography page with new information and research