Harriet Tubman using the underground railway at Niagara Falls to escape slavery

Sarah H. Bradford says in her biography of Harriet Tubman that "Her name deserves to be handed down to posterity, side by side with the names of Jeanne D'Arc, Grace Darling, and Florence Nightingale, for not one of these women, noble and brave as they were, has shown more courage, and power of endurance, in facing danger and death to relieve human suffering, than this poor black woman, whose story I am endeavoring in a most imperfect way to give you."

Harriet after escaping slavery herself returned to the USA on at least 15 occasions and helped over 300 other people escape. This extract from 'Harriet, The Moses of Her People' published in 1886 describes the last leg one of those trips along the underground railway from New York city to Niagara Falls

"They finally reached New York in safety: and this goes almost without saying, for I may as well mention here that of the three hundred and more fugitives whom Harriet piloted from slavery, not one was ever recaptured, though all the cunning and skill of white men, backed by offered rewards of large sums of money, were brought into requisition for their recovery.

As they entered the anti-slavery office in New York, Mr. Oliver Johnson rose up and exclaimed, "Well, Joe, I am glad to see the man who is worth $2,000 to his master." At this Joe's heart sank. "Oh, Mas'r, how did you know me!" he panted. "Here is the advertisement in our office," said Mr. Johnson, "and the description is so close that no one could mistake it." And had he come through all these perils, had he traveled by day and night, and suffered cold and hunger, and lived in constant fear and dread, to find that far off here in New York State, he was recognized at once by the advertisement? How, then, was he ever to reach Canada?

"And how far off is Canada?" he asked. He was shown the map of New York State, and the track of the railroad, for more than three hundred miles to Niagara, where he would cross the river, and be free. But the way seemed long and full of dangers. They were surely safer on their own tired feet, where they might hide in forests and ditches, and take refuge in the friendly underground stations; but here, where this large party would be together in the cars, surely suspicion would fall upon them, and they would be seized and carried back


No doubt the simple creatures with her expected to cross a wide lake instead of a rapid river, and to see Queen Victoria with her crown upon her head, waiting with arms extended wide, to fold them all in her embrace. There was now but "one wide river to cross," and the cars rolled on to the bridge. In the distance was heard the roar of the mighty cataract, and now as they neared the center of the bridge, the falls might be clearly seen. Harriet was anxious to have her companions see this wonderful sight, and succeeded in bringing all to the windows, except Joe. But Joe still sat with his head on his hands, and not even the wonders of Niagara could draw him from his melancholy musings. At length as Harriet knew by the rise of the center of the bridge, and the descent immediately after, the line of danger was passed; she sprang across to Joe's side of the car, and shook him almost out of his seat, as she shouted, "Joe! you've shook de lion's paw!" This was her phrase for having entered on the dominions of England. But Joe did not understand this figurative expression. Then she shook him again, and put it more plainly, "Joe, you're in Queen Victoria's dominions! You're a free man!"

Then Joe arose. His head went up, he raised his hands on high, and his eyes, streaming with tears, to heaven, and then he began to sing and shout:

"Glory to God and Jesus too,
One more soul got safe;
Oh, go and carry the news,
One more soul got safe."

"Joe, come and look at the falls!"

"Glory to God and Jesus too,
One more soul got safe."

"Joe! it's your last chance. Come and see de falls!"

"Glory to God and Jesus too,
One more soul got safe."

And this was all the answer. The train stopped on the other side; and the first feet to touch British soil, after those of the conductor, were those of poor Joe.

Loud roared the waters of Niagara, but louder still ascended the Anthem of praise from the overflowing heart of the freeman. And can we doubt that the strain was taken up by angel voices and echoed and re-echoed through the vaults of heaven:

Glory to God in the highest,
Glory to God and Jesus too,
For all these souls now safe.

"The white ladies and gentlemen gathered round him," said Harriet, "till I couldn't see Joe for the crowd, only I heard his voice singing, 'Glory to God and Jesus too,' louder than ever." A sweet young lady reached over her fine cambric handkerchief to him, and as Joe wiped the great tears off his face, he said, "Tank de Lord! dere's only one more journey for me now, and dat's to Hebben!" As we bid farewell to Joe here, I may as well say that Harriet saw him several times after that, a happy and industrious freeman in Canada.

"Farewell, ole Marster,
don't think hard of me,
I'm going on to Canada,
where all de slaves are free."

"Jesus, Jesus will go wid you,
He will lead you to His throne,
He who died has gone before you,
Trod de wine-press all alone."


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