Their names; Harriet Robinson Scott, Harriet Tubman, Harriet Jacobs, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. I saw their names and read about their deeds in the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia PA and their time was early American History. The present time is around the Fourth of July 2022 and celebrations are in the night.
Harriet Robinson Scott (1820 – June 17, 1876) fought for her freedom along-side her husband Dred Scott. Their battle led to the United States Supreme Court decision of Dred Scott vs Sandford in 1857. Dred Scott an enslaved man was taken from Missouri (a slave-holding state) into Wisconsin Territory (where slavery was illegal). When he returned with his owner, Scott sued in court for his freedom claiming that because he had been taken to a free US Territory he had automatically been freed and was no longer a slave. Over time the case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The United States Supreme Court held that the United States Constitution was not meant to include ‘American citizenship’ for people of ‘African descent’ regardless of whether they were “enslaved or free”. Many legal scholars said it was one of the worst Supreme Court decisions ever and led up to the Civil War.
Harriet Tubman (March 1822 – March 10, 1913) was born into slavery in Maryland. She escaped by herself to Philadelphia PA and returned over 13 times to rescue her family and others. She earned the title of ‘Moses’ because she freed so many and didn’t lose any (70). As a results she became the most productive conductor of the Underground Railroad. During the Civil she served as an Army Scout and spy for the Union Army.
Harriet Tubman became so well-known because her exploits were dramatized on TV and in the movies. Ruby Dee portrayed her in the CBS series “Go down Moses”. Cicely Tyson portrayed her in the NBC miniseries “A Woman called Moses. Alfre Woodward portrayed her in “Race to Freedom”. In 2019 Cynthia Erivo received National acclaim for her role as ‘Harriet’ including an Academy Awards nominations, the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and a NAACP Image Award.
Harriet Jacobs (1815 – March 7, 1897) was born into slavery in North Carolina. Her mistress taught her how to sew and to ‘read and write’. When a new slave owner started to sexually harass her, she hid from him in a small crawl space under her grandmother’s house. She hid from him in that small space for ‘seven years’ and finally escaped from him and North Carolina in 1842.
Like Anne Frank the German-Dutch girl of Jewish heritage and victim of the holocaust who hid for two years in the attic, Harriet wrote about her experience. Her book the ‘Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl’ was published under the name Linda Brent.
Her book and the book ‘Narrative of the life of Fredrick Douglass’ are commonly viewed as the two most important slave narratives. During the Civil War and immediately after the war Harriet and her daughter organized and helped found two schools for fugitives and free slaves.
Harriet Beecher Stowe (June 1811 – July 1896) was an American author and abolitionist. She wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” in 1852. Her goal of the book was to educate Northerners on the realist horrors of things that were happening in the South. The other purpose to make the Southerners feel more empathic towards the people they were forcing into slavery. Slavery touched all of society beyond the people involved as masters, traders, and slaves.
The book reached millions as a novel and a play which energized the anti-slavery forces in the North while provoking widespread anger in the South. After the start of the Civil War Stowe traveled to the Capital in Washington DC to meet President Abraham Lincoln. Stowe’s son reported that he greeted her by saying, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war”.
Years from now what will the historians and political scholars have to say about Ketanji Brown Jackson’s who just became the First Black Woman selected to the US Supreme Court? Only time will tell.
Earl E. Hackett
Writer, blogger, author