Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Harriet Tubman Conference

This weekend individuals from far and wide will converge on Cambridge to honor the memory and accomplishments of Harriet Tubman, a Dorchester-born slave credited with stealing scores of her fellow slaves and leading them to safety in the North.

Harriet, by all accounts was a small woman, but her portrait (newly repainted and installed in a little park on US 50) seems to show a backbone of steel - which she would have needed to flee the dismal, humid nights of tidewater Maryland and make her way to first Delaware, then Philadelphia with the help of Quakers who fed and clothed the miserable individuals who often walked to freedom under Harriet's guideance.

Harriet, who had been injured as a young woman, suffered from narcolepsy and perhaps strange, prophetic dreams that showed her the journey she must take. Legend has it local slaves sang the gospel favorite "Go Down Moses" when Harriet was in town. The hymn was a signal to those who meant to run away to a free life - first in Philly, and later all the way to Canada when the US Congress decreed that runaway slaves be returned to their owners - even when they were aprehended in free states.

Harriet not only worked what is now called the Underground Railroad, but also worked as a baker, a nurse and a Union spy. Promised a pension for her old age that never appeared Harried lived out her days in Auburn, NY where she kept a home for ancient slaves who remained in her care until they died.

MY poetry Runaway Hearts includes my attempt to tell the story of Harriet's youth. I hope you enjoy it! Have a good day and keep on the sunny side. Love, Terry

A FREEDOM DREAM from Runaway Hearts

Harriet Tubman was fine-boned,
but strong!
She worked in the world like a man.
Her story is here in the marshes
and woods
I’ll tell you as much as I can:

Screech owl call on a Bucktown night
Ain’t no moon, ain’t no light.
Child at rest on a corn shuck bed.
Strange dreams fill Mis Hattie’s head!

Seven years old, a runaway twice,
Once, last spring.
Before, there was ice!
There’s a tune that struggles
deep in her soul
Hat’s star points North,
a new life her goal....

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