Harriet Tubman Quotes

Harriet Tubman (~1820 - 1913)

Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman. Corbis via Getty Images/Getty Images

An escaped slave who led many other slaves to freedom, Harriet Tubman is best known for her work with the Underground Railroad.  She was also an abolitionist, Civil War soldier, and women's rights advocate.  As she was one of the most famous women (or people) of the 19th century, quite a few other famous individuals commented on her life and contributions, including on how her life inspired them.

Selected Harriet Tubman Quotations

• I grew up like a neglected weed, ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it.

Then I was not happy or contented: every time I saw a white man I was afraid of being carried away.

• I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other; for no man should take me alive.

• 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.

• Quakers almost as good as colored.... They call themselves friends and you can trust them every time.

• I never ran my train off the track, and I never lost a passenger.

• We saw the lightning and that was the guns; and then we heard the thunder and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped.

• [quoted by Sarah H. Bradford, using dialect, on Tubman's experience of crossing the Mason-Dixon line in 1849] I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person now that I was free.

There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in heaven.

Quotes About Harriet Tubman

• From Alice Walker: "We will be ourselves and free, or die in the attempt. Harriet Tubman was not our great-grandmother for nothing." Alice Walker, You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down.

• From Frederick Douglass: "The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witness of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism."

• From Frederick Douglass: "Much that you have done would seem improbable to those who do not know you as I know you."

• From Frederick Douglass: "I have wrought in the day -- you in the night. I have had the applause of the crowd and the satisfaction that comes of being approved by the multitude, while the most that you have done has been witnessed by a few trembling, scarred, and footsore bondsmen and women . . . whose heartfelt 'God bless you' has been your only reward."

• From William Still, diary entry: "Great fears were entertained for her safety, but she was wholly devoid of personal fear. The idea of being captured by slave-hunters or slaveholders seemed never to enter her mind."

• From Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1859 letter: "Her tales of adventure are beyond anything in fiction and her ingenuity and generalship are extraordinary. I have known her for some time -- the slaves call her Moses."

• From Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1859 letter: "... a more ordinary specimen of humanity could hardly be found among the most unfortunate-looking farm hands of the South.

Yet in point of courage, shrewdness, and disinterested exertions to rescue her fellow-man, she was without equal."

• From Thomas Garrett, Underground Railroad conductor: "I never met with any person of any color who had more confidence in the voice of God."

• From W. E. B. DuBois: “Harriet Tubman fought American slavery single-handed and was a pioneer in that organized effort known as the Underground Railroad.”

• From Langston Hughes: “Harriet Tubman lived to see the harvest.”

• From Booker T. Washington: "...one of the best-educated persons that ever lived in this country..."

• From her grandniece, Alice Brickler: "It is said that on the day of her death, her strength returned to her. She arose from her bed with little assistance, ate heartily, walked about the rooms of the Old Ladies’ Home which she liked so much and then went back to bed and her final rest.

Whether this is true or not, it is typical of her. She believed in mind [over] matter. Regardless of how impossible a task might seem, if it were her task she tackled it with a determination to win."

• From Oprah Winfrey: "I am where I am because of the bridges that I crossed. Sojourner Truth was a bridge. Harriet Tubman was a bridge. Ida B. Wells was a bridge. Madame C. J. Walker was a bridge. Fannie Lou Hamer was a bridge."

About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. Each quotation page in this collection and the entire collection © Jone Johnson Lewis. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Harriet Tubman Quotes." ThoughtCo, Dec. 29, 2017, thoughtco.com/harriet-tubman-quotes-3525394. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2017, December 29). Harriet Tubman Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/harriet-tubman-quotes-3525394 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Harriet Tubman Quotes." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/harriet-tubman-quotes-3525394 (accessed January 21, 2018).