She knew the route to freedom

The year was 1849. In a slave cabin on John Brodas's Maryland plantation, a young slave named Harriet Tubman was preparing to escape. As Harriet packed her few provisions, she tried not to think about the dangerous journey that lay ahead. The punishment for runaway slaves was harsh, and only a few ever made it. Quietly, Harriet slipped past the slave quarters for the last time. If only there were some way to let her parents know she was leaving! Softly and slowly, Harriet began to sing:

When that old chariot comes

I'm going to leave you

I'm bound for the Promised


I'm going to leave you.

Harriet's father, Old Ben, recognized his daughter's voice. He also knew how much freedom meant to her. Old Ben didn't need to look out his cabin door to know that Harriet was telling him goodbye.

Harriet wasted no time getting started. As soon as her owner discovered her missing, he would surely send dogs and armed men to look for her. To keep the dogs from following her scent, Harriet waded upstream for several hours. All night Harriet walked with only the North Star to guide her. When it became too dark for her to see, she knelt down and felt for the moss that always grows on the north side of trees.

In the morning Harriet found the house she had been searching for. It belonged to a Quaker family. Although it was against the law for anyone to help a slave escape, this family was part of the Underground Railroad, a secret system of people who helped the slaves get to safety in the North.

All day, Harriet rested in the Quaker family's house. That evening she was taken out to a wagon and hidden beneath a shipment of corn. The wagon carried Harriet farther north, to another ``safe house'' where she was given more food and shelter.

Gradually, Harriet made her way toward freedom. The trip took many days, but when she finally crossed the Pennsylvania border Harriet knew she had reached the promised land.

For the next year, Harriet worked hard and saved every penny. Then one day she received a message that her sister and her sister's two children were about to be sold to another plantation in the deep South. Harriet knew this was her only chance to rescue them.

Harriet's friends tried to convince her not to go. There were large rewards for the capture of runaway slaves, and the cold winter weather had already begun. She would never make it. But Harriet wasn't afraid. She told her friends that since she'd been a passenger on the railroad before, she already knew the route.

Soon, Harriet and her sister's family were safe in Philadelphia. But Harriet realized her work had only begun. Like Moses, Harriet believed that God had chosen her to lead her people out of slavery. Harriet started making more trips to the South to rescue people. Her reputation for stealing slaves grew quickly, and before long everyone was talking about the fearless woman who called herself Moses.

Rewards for Harriet's capture eventually reached $40,000 but she was never caught. During the 10 years she served as a conductor, this brave woman made 19 trips to the South and helped more than 300 slaves escape! ``On my Underground Railroad,'' she said years later, ``I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger!''

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