Saturday, February 12, 2011

"Harriet Tubman Fought Slavery and Oppression" from VOA.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: I'm Shirley Griffith.

RAY FREEMAN: And I'm Ray Freeman with the Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Every week we tell the story of someone important in the history of the United States. Today we tell about Harriet Tubman, an African American woman who fought slavery and oppression.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Historians say Harriet Tubman was born in the year Eighteen-Twenty. Nobody really knows. In the United States in the Nineteenth Century the birth of slaves was not recorded.

We do know that Harriet Tubman was one of the bravest women ever born in the United States. She helped hundreds of people escape from slavery on the Underground Railroad. This was a system that helped slaves escape from the South to states where slavery was banned.

Because of her work on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman was called Moses. In the Bible, Moses was the leader of the Jewish people enslaved in Egypt. He brought his people out of slavery to the promised land. Harriet Tubman died in Nineteen-Thirteen. All her life, she always tried to improve life for African Americans.


RAY FREEMAN: From a very early age, Harriet knew how slaves suffered. Her parents were slaves. They belonged to Edward Brodas, a farmer in the middle Atlantic state of Maryland. Harriet's parents tried to protect her and their ten other children as much as they could. There was little they could do, however. Slaves were treated like animals. They could be sold at any time. Families often were separated. Slave children were not permitted to act like children. By the time Harriet was three years old, Mister Brodas ordered her to carry notes from him to other farmers. Some of these farmers lived as far as fifteen kilometers away. Harriet was punished if she stopped to rest or play.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: When Harriet was six years old, the Brodas family sent her to work for another family who lived near their farm. While there, Harriet was infected with the disease measles. Even though she was sick, she was forced to place and remove animal traps in an icy river. She was sent home when she became dangerously ill. Harriet's mother took very good care of her. The child survived. Then she was sent to work in the Brodas's house. Her owners never gave her enough to eat. One day she was working in the kitchen. She was looking at a piece of sugar in a silver container when Missus Brodas saw her. Harriet ran away in fear. She was caught and beaten very severely. Her owners decided that Harriet never would make a good worker in the house. She was sent to the fields.

RAY FREEMAN: Harriet's parents were sad. They worked in the fields and they knew how difficult it was to survive the hard work. But working outside made Harriet's body strong. And she began to learn things from the other slaves. These things one day would help her lead her people to freedom. Harriet heard about Nat Turner. He had led an unsuccessful rebellion of slaves. She heard about other slaves who had run away from their cruel owners. She was told that they had traveled by the Underground Railroad. They did not escape by using a special train. Instead of a real train, the Underground Railroad was a series of hiding places, usually in houses of people who opposed slavery. These were secret places that African Americans could stop at as they escaped from the South to the North. As Harriet heard stories of rebellion, she became more of a rebel.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: One day when Harriet was fifteen she was at a local store. A slave owner entered and threatened a young boy who was his slave. At first, the slave refused to move. Then he ran for the door. Harriet moved in front of the young man. The slave owner reached for a heavy weight. He threw it at his slave. He missed. Instead, the heavy metal object hit Harriet in the head. Harriet almost died. Months passed before she could get out of bed. For the rest of her life, she carried the mark of a deep wound on her head. And she suffered from blackouts. She would suddenly lose consciousness as though she had fallen asleep.

RAY FREEMAN: Mister Brodas felt he would never get any good work out of Harriet. So he decided to sell her. Harriet thought of a way to prevent this. Each time she was shown to someone who might buy her, she acted as if she were falling asleep. After a while, Mister Brodas gave up hope of selling Harriet. He sent her back to the fields. She dreamed of freedom while picking vegetables and digging in the fields. In Eighteen Forty-Four, at about age twenty-four, she married a free black man named John Tubman. By now, Harriet was sure she wanted to try to escape. It would be very dangerous. Slaves who were caught often were killed or almost beaten to death. Harriet knew she must wait for just the right time.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Suddenly, in Eighteen-Forty-Nine, the time came. Mister Brodas died. His slaves probably would be sold to cotton farmers further South. The situation there would be even worse. John Tubman tried to make Harriet forget about running away. He was free. Why should he make a dangerous trip with a woman breaking the law? Harriet decided that her marriage to John must end. Harriet heard that she was to be sold immediately. She knew she needed to tell her family that she was leaving. She began to sing, softly at first, then louder. She sang the words, "I'm sorry to leave you...I'm going to the promised land." Her family understood.


RAY FREEMAN: Harriet ran to the home of a white woman who had promised to help. This woman belonged to the Quakers, a religious group which hated slavery. The Quaker woman told her how to reach another home where she could hide. Harriet went from house to house that way on the Underground Railroad. Each place was a little closer to the eastern state of Pennsylvania. Slavery was banned there. Once she was hidden under hay that had been cut from the fields. Another time, she wore men's clothing. Finally, she crossed the border into Pennsylvania. Later, she told a friend, "I felt like I was in heaven."

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Now that Harriet was free, she did not forget the hundreds of other slaves back in Maryland. During the next ten years, she led a much expanded Underground Railroad. She freed her parents, her sister, brothers and other family members. She found a home for her parents in Auburn, New York.

Harriet traveled back and forth eighteen times, helping about three-hundred slaves escape into free territory. She became an expert at hiding from slave hunters. At one time, anyone finding Harriet was promised forty-thousand dollars for catching her -- dead or alive. The people she helped called her Moses. She had rescued them from slavery just as the biblical Moses rescued the Jews.

Harriet found another way to fight slavery after the Civil War began in Eighteen-Sixty-One. Seven southern states decided to separate from the United States, mainly over the issue of slavery. The northern states refused to let the United States of America break apart.

After fighting began, Harriet Tubman went into enemy territory to spy for the North. She also served as a nurse. After four years of bloody fighting, the North won the war.

President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in Eighteen-Sixty-Three. There was no longer any need for Harriet to be Moses.


RAY FREEMAN: After the fighting ended, Harriet Tubman returned to Auburn, New York. She married a man named Nelson Davis. This could have been the beginning of a few quiet years of family life for her. But she kept working. She traveled and gave speeches to raise money for better education for black children. She also worked for women's rights and housing. And she sought help for old men and women who had been slaves. Harriet Tubman died in Nineteen-Thirteen. She was about ninety-three years old. By that time, she was recognized as an American hero. The United States government gave a funeral with military honors for the woman known as Moses.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH:This program was written by Jeri Watson. I'm Shirley Griffith.

RAY FREEMAN: I'm Ray Freeman. Listen again next week at this time for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.


1. Harriet Tubman helped slaves escape to states where slavery was banned. "Banned" means "___________________" .
a: encouraged
b: illegal
c: promoted
d: slowly disappearing

2. Because of her work helping slaves escape to freedom, Harriet Tubman has been compared to the Biblical character ___________ .
a: Jesus
b: David
c: Noah
d: Moses

3. When she was just three years old, Harriet Tubman was made to perform the services of a _______________________ .
a: dishwasher
b: housekeeper
c: messenger
d: gardener

4. The Underground Railroad was _________________ .
a: a subway
b: a series of hiding places for African Americans attempting to escape slavery
c: a train that ran from Alabama to Washington D.C..
d: a system for returning escaped slaves to their masters

5. Harriet knew that her marriage to John Tubman must end because ____________ .
a: he didn't support her desire to escape slavery
b: he didn't provide enough money for their family
c: he didn't want to move with her further south
d: he wasn't interested in having children

6. After Harriet Tubman successfully escaped slavery, she ________________ .
a: settled down as a free woman in Pennsylvania
b: she joined a community of other free slaves
c: she moved to Auburn, New York where she taught school
d: she returned to Maryland several times to help other slaves escape

7. Harriet Tubman avoided being sold as a slave by __________________ .
a: pretending to black out
b: acting crazy
c: purposely injuring herself
d: refusing to answer questions

8. During the Civil War, from 1860 to 1865, Harriet Tubman __________________ .
a: worked for women's rights
b: traveled and gave speeches
c: returned to the south in order to spy for the north
d: completed the Underground Railroad

9. After the Civil War one thing Harriet Tubman didn't do was ________________ .
a: to raise money for better education for black children
b: to help elderly former slaves
c: to remain single and enjoy a quiet life
d: to work for housing for women

10. To Harriet Tubman and other slaves, "The Promised Land" meant _______________ .
a: a place where slaves were treated with kindness
b: a place where slave family members could live together
c: a place where there was plenty of good earth for food to grow
d: a place where slavery was banned

Harriet Tubman Biography from Youtube:

Harriet Tubman's dream is mentioned in the article, "Sleep Science and the Mystery of Dreams."


  1. great woman!thanks for this wonderful article

  2. Pas mal du tout, manque un peu de français. Mais bon, je commence à croire que c"est un site anglais. Seul Dieu le sait. En tout cas Paola a raison, j'ai recherché la traduction sur google trad.
    Michel OBAMA

    1. bonsoir michel obama jarrive pas a kroire que sait vous vou pouvait me fzire une dedi svp

    2. Bonsoir,
      En effet c'est moi
      Ducoup #dédipierre
      tendres bises

    3. svp sa srait trop le feu et vous serez tlm le sang de la veine du testicules doit

    4. ohh merci vous gerer sa mere inchallah vous serez presidente du congo l'annee proch

  3. Bonjour
    Je n'ai absolument rien compri met ca a laire super good, un peu d'anglais ne fait pa de mal tout comme UN PEU DE FRANCAI!!
    en soite ca a laire complait domag ke je ne komprene pa l'anglai et trait peu le francais
    Cordialemen, Ribery

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