Leading up to the release of my latest eBook, The Art of Not Giving a Fuck (which I introduced in the last post), I’m doing a series of posts entitled “Great Moments in the History of Not Giving a Fuck.”
If you’ve studied US history at all, you know about Harriet Tubman and her ridiculously courageous actions…
She was born into slavery on a plantation in Maryland sometime around 1820 (they didn’t keep birth records of slaves). Harriet escaped in 1849 and made her way to Philadelphia.
Yeah that’s great, she escaped the confines of slavery and started living in Philly as a free woman. But it’s just the beginning… Instead of just going for self and enjoying her newfound freedom, Harriet actually went back to the plantation and freed the rest of her family. No hesitation, no fucks given.
She then made it her mission to free as many people as possible by way of what was called “The Underground Railroad.” I don’t think people realize how insanely dangerous the underground railroad really was. Even the term “railroad” makes it seem like a cozy ride along the countryside. The underground railroad wasn’t for the faint of heart, to say the least. Tubman and the people she freed slept in swamps, hid during the day, and only moved under the cover of darkness. It functioned as a super secret network and any leaked information could lead to its collapse, and the hopes of freedom crushed for so many. There were a few admirable people who provided shelter along the way, but Harriet and company had to traverse many miles on their own. Also, catching runaway slaves came with lucrative rewards. So they were constantly pursued by police, soldiers, attack dogs, bounty hunters, and slave-catchers. Harriet never gave a fuck though; never got caught, and never lost a passenger.
Because of her ability to lead people to freedom, Harriet Tubman earned the nickname “Moses” for her work along the Underground Railroad.
She was incredibly clever and resourceful too…
One admirer of Tubman said: “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.¹
Harriet Tubman ended up making more than 19 trips between Maryland and Southern Ontario, Canada (where they were more accepting of freed slaves) and personally freed over 300 people… Damn.
Her story doesn’t even stop at the Underground Railroad either. Harriet Tubman never backed down from day one.
The story of her head injury is a testament to her fearless character:
One day, the adolescent Tubman was sent to a dry-goods store for supplies. There, she encountered a slave owned by another family, who had left the fields without permission. His overseer, furious, demanded that Tubman help restrain the young man. She refused, and as the slave ran away, the overseer threw a two-pound weight at him. He struck Tubman instead, which she said “broke my skull.” She later explained her belief that her hair – which “had never been combed and … stood out like a bushel basket” – might have saved her life. Bleeding and unconscious, Tubman was returned to her owner’s house and laid on the seat of a loom, where she remained without medical care for two days. She was sent back into the fields, “with blood and sweat rolling down my face until I couldn’t see.” Her boss said she was “not worth a sixpence” and returned her to Brodess, who tried unsuccessfully to sell her. She began having seizures and would seemingly fall unconscious, although she claimed to be aware of her surroundings while appearing to be asleep. These episodes were alarming to her family, who were unable to wake her when she fell asleep suddenly and without warning. This condition remained with Tubman for the rest of her life; Larson suggests she may have suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy as a result of the injury.
The severe head wound occurred when Tubman was becoming deeply religious–although one must note this is not insinuating this as being the chief cause. As an illiterate child, she had been told Bible stories by her mother. The particular variety of her early Christian belief remains unclear, but Tubman acquired a passionate faith in God. She rejected the teachings of the New Testament that urged slaves to be obedient and found guidance in the Old Testament tales of deliverance. Additionally, Tubman began having visions and potent dreams, which she considered signs from the divine. This religious perspective instructed her throughout her life.¹
So she did the Bruce Lee philosophy with her beliefs… “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.” She took empowering messages, ignored the disempowering-fear-based-victim-mentality-bullshit, and followed the signs.
Another fun fact is that she was the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the Civil War. She guided the Combahee River Raid, which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.
Although Harriet Tubman is most famous for her underground railroad journeys, she lived The Art of Not Giving a Fuck from cradle to grave. Her love for others completely obliterated any shred of fear that would have otherwise stopped her.
What we can learn from Harriet Tubman and what she did:
Follow your heart, and don’t give a fuck. Harriet Tubman was deeply compelled to do what she did. Do you think she gave a fuck when people told her she was being unrealistic? Do you think she gave a fuck about the threats of the oppressors? Do you think she gave a fuck about the hardships she’d face? Fuck no! When you don’t give a fuck, and you’re motivated by love, not fear, you step into the realm of legendary.
If you really want something, you can get it done. Nothing deterred her. Nothing could stop her. She knew what she wanted to do, and was willing to put it all on the line to get it done.
Love > fear. Love and fear are the two fundamental motivating forces (which I go into in depth in the eBook). Instead of being deterred by fear, her love for others and freedom drove her in what she did. Every fuck you give is a bit of fear, and if Harriet held any fear, she wouldn’t have done the legendary things she did.
Legal doesn’t necessarily mean moral, and illegal doesn’t necessarily mean immoral. What Harriet Tubman did was illegal, but it’s one of the most compellingly positive stories of modern times. She did the right thing, even though society was fucked up and oppressive.
The importance of human connection. Human connection made what she did possible. Her love for others drove her to free hundreds of people. Many people provided shelter for the runaways as well. When we help each other and work together, we can illuminate any dark room with our brilliant light.
Never complacent. She didn’t free herself and then stop. She didn’t free a couple people and then stop. She kept going. Can’t stop, won’t stop.
Actions speak louder than words. While armchair abolitionists debated about the morality of slavery, Harriet Tubman was busy leading people to freedom.
“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The impact one individual can make. Think about the impact Harriet Tubman created. She directly guided hundreds to freedom. But her actions also ripple through history…
Her story conveys a message of empowerment, unshakable perseverance, and not giving a fuck (from a place of love.)
Thank you, Harriet Tubman.
Stay feelin’ good, feelin’ great my friends.
The Art of Not Giving a Fuck eBook…Official release date coming soon…