Harriet Tubman, described widely as the ‘Moses of her people’ was instrumental in the efforts to abolish slavery in mid 19th century America. Born into a life of bondage, she was forced into work at five years of age and at 12 was horrifically injured by the plantation overseer when he threw a lead weight at her head. At 27 and buoyed by stories of slave rebellions emerging across the country, she escaped her Maryland plantation and headed Northwards where she knew there were strong groups of Quakers and anti slavery campaigners who were collectively known as the ‘Underground Railroad’
In this latest edition of his BAFTA nominated series of lectures, writer and broadcaster Mark Steel assesses the life of this remarkable woman, whose courage, fearlessness, and single-mindedness ensured that hundreds of slaves escaped their miserable lives on the plantations and found freedom across the border in Canada.
Despite having a twelve hundred dollar bounty on her head, Harriet would insist on planning and executing a series of audacious raids back in Maryland, returning to free dozens of people from her old plantation. In 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected President and the South was horrified at the prospect of being governed by a President opposed to slavery; they decided to break away from the rest of America calling themselves the Confederates and soon after the Civil War began.
Join the award winning comedian Mark Steel as he charts Harriet Tubman’s course through American history; Her daring armed raids to rescue fellow slaves, her inclusion into the Underground Railroad network, her work with fellow abolitionist John Brown and her special meetings with Abraham Lincoln’s wife.
The story of Harriet Tubman is a tale of one of America’s greatest war heroes, a woman who fought against a real axis of evil to strike a blow for freedom.
First broadcast: Tuesday 7 Oct 2003 on BBC Four