It’s easy to look back on American history and cast aspersions. But it’s harder to recognize the complexity and uneven nature of history.
There are American heroes who dedicated — and risked — their lives forcing this nation to live up to its best ideals of human liberty.
Harriet Tubman was one such woman.
It’s one thing to talk about the basic principles that we all should follow: That all human beings deserve to be free to live their lives as they see fit. That we all should be afforded the rich opportunities this country has to offer.
It’s quite another to have the courage to fight for them for ourselves and for others.
There is no better example than Tubman. We’re particularly pleased that a new generation will get to learn about her bravery and perseverance with the movie “Harriet” that opened on Friday.
Stunningly, it’s the first motion picture to hit the big screen that chronicles the remarkable life of this abolitionist, who fought for women’s right to vote and was on the front lines for the Union during the Civil War.
Here’s a woman born a slave in 1822. Somehow, she managed to escape to freedom. And, as we all remember from our history books, she made the treacherous 100-mile trek back more than a dozen times and led dozens of other slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad.
There were multiple bounties on her head. It’s hard to imagine what would have happened to her had she been caught.
This movie doesn’t gloss over the horrors of slavery and the brutality inflicted on generations of American families — men, women and children bought and sold like no more than cattle or crops to the highest bidders.
But we’re most impressed that it focuses on the humanity of Tubman — a woman of incomparable faith who suffered a head injury from an overseer and reported to have visions from God that kept her safe. She had a fierce love for her family. She was determined to lead them to freedom, too. And she was determined to do her part to right the wrongs inflicted by society.
There are lessons in Tubman’s life that are relevant today. Her journey encourages us to learn from our history, to understand it and do whatever is in our power to apply its teachings to our lives today.
What can we do in this divisive present-day world to bring our communities together and make them better places to live? As we reach milestones of success, who can we bring along with us?
Harriet Tubman was an American hero who experienced so much of our history. That she survived to 1913, dying at age 91, is, perhaps, a testament to her uncommon bravery and grit.
Her life was an inspiration not just to African Americans, but to any person who believes that people ought to be free. Her story strengthens our nation, reminds of us the courage that can well within each of us, and she deserves all the honor we can bestow upon her.