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Frederick Douglass: “The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart”

Frederick Douglass

“I have often been utterly astonished, since I came to the north, to find persons who could speak of the singing, among slaves, as evidence of their contentment and happiness. It is impossible to conceive of a greater mistake. Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears. At least, such is my experience.”

– Frederick Douglass

Robert Smalls, the story of his escape from slavery

Robert Smalls


“One night when the officers are on shore, we’re going to take the boat, put you and the children aborard and sail it out to the bar. With my wearing Captain Relyea’s hat, the sentries’ll think it’s him and let us pass.”

“And what’ll happen if you’re caught?” Hannah asked.

“I’ll be shot. Sure it’s a risk. But freedom’s only seven miles away. Freedom for Elizabeth, for Robert.”


Robert Smalls was born to a mother who was a slave. And as for his father, well no one knows for certain who he was. Some said it was the slave master of the plantation, or his son, or maybe even the plantation manager. But what is for certain is that Robert was favored amongst the slave children. So much so that his mother wasn’t sure he understood the horror that slavery was.

But as Robert entered his late teens and early 20’s, he yearned for freedom. Broad shouldered and slim waisted, self confident and strong, by 22 years old he was a husband to Hannah, and a father to Elizabeth and Robert Jr.

And so it was in that year, 1862, he plotted an escape.

For almost a year now, Robert had been assigned to wheelsman the CSS Planter, a 140 foot long and fifty foot wide Confederate Ship, one of the fastest in the Charleston harbor. This position was the closest a slave could have to being a pilot.

On May 12th, he made his move. As the 3 white officers aboard the ship decided to spend the night ashore, Robert put on the captain’s gold-trimmed jacked and straw hat, took helm of the ship, picked up his family and the families of a few other slave men who were with him and steered the ship out of the Confederate harbor where they surrendered to the U.S. Navy.

He and his family were free. And for the Union Army, getting access to this ship was critical, as aboard was the code book containing the Confederate signals, and a map of the mines and torpedoes that had been laid in Charleston’s harbor.

Robert and his men were rewarded for their action. He got to meet President Lincoln. But their greatest reward was their actions, which became a major argument for permitting African Americans to enlist in the Union Army.

After the war, Robert would co-found the South Carolina Republican Party. Then then he would go on to represent South Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Sources: Captain of the Planter; the story of Robert Smalls by Dorothy Sterling

Harriet Tubman biographical snapshot

Harriet Tubman

“She always came in the winter, when the nights are long and dark, and people who have homes stay in them. Once she had made contact with escaping slaves, they left town on Saturday evenings, since newspapers would not print runaway notices until Monday morning.”

Harriet Tubman was a petite woman of five feet, who was disabled from a head injury in youth, and who was a former slave who escaped to her freedom.

In her free life, she became a conductor on the Underground Railroad, where over a span of 11 years she rescued hundreds of slaves.

Harriet was never captured and neither were any of the slaves she rescued.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_Tubman

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Harriet Tubman: “I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom.”

Harriet Tubman

“I had crossed the line of which I had so long been dreaming. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom, I was a stranger in a strange land, and my home after all was down in the old cabin quarter, with the old folks, and my brothers and sisters. But to this solemn resolution I came; I was free, and they should be free also; I would make a home for them in the North, and the Lord helping me, I would bring them all there.”

– Harriet Tubman