September 30, 1868: Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” is published

Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

“It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.Alcott.1

“I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

“We’ve got Father and Mother, and each other,” said Beth contentedly from her corner…

~ ~ ~

Louisa May Alcott did not grow up in a typical American family. Her father, Bronson Alcott, who was as odd as two left feet, believed that only children, so recently arrived from the celestial realm, possessed a purity that could redeem humankind. “Look not into the world,” he wrote, “for the image of the Father. There it is dimmed, disfigured. But look into the radiant face of childhood ere earth hath left its traces upon it, and be blessed—nay, saved!”

Bronson Alcott founded several schools dedicated to drawing the divine essence out of his pupils, which drew lavish praise from Ralph Waldo Emerson, but Bronson never could reach other parents’ children soon enough to perfect his theories. He turned to his own home to cultivate infant perfection in his daughters.

Carefully excluding all harmful influences, Bronson exhorted his daughters to resist every selfish impulse and to indulge every creative one. The youngest girl, May, was allowed to draw on the walls of her room, even while four-year-old Louisa was required to give up the last slice of her birthday cake when an unexpected guest arrived at the party.

When Louisa was eleven, the Alcotts moved to a commune called Fruitlands, whose members swore off all animal products, coffee and tea, and any commodity generated by slavery. In theory, all its members enjoyed an equal claim on one another’s loyalties and affections, but the sexual politics proved particularly tough on a young marriage. Fruitlands foundered in less than a year.

During her teenage years in Concord, Louisa freely browsed through Emerson’s library, where she discovered Goethe, Milton, Schiller, and Carlyle. Henry David Thoreau played his flute for her and took her on nature walks through the woods. Nathaniel Hawthorne lived next door. Through these Concord neighbors Louisa’s eyes were opened to nature, literature, and life. Yet every illuminated day ended with a trudge back home to a coarse supper of bread and apples, and to a father habitually out of work, and where all were as “poor as rats.”

Her father hoped to teach the Alcott girls the unimportance of worldly wealth, but Louisa discovered by experience that metaphysical essays and meditations on the Oversoul earned little. She started to write, to make her own way in the world. By 1868, her work had appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, her Civil War memoir, Hospital Sketches, had been recognized for its merit, and her novel, Moods, had been reviewed by the young Henry James. Louisa’s father’s editor thought she might write a smart, lively novel for girls. She had told him she would try, but her experience told her that writing for juveniles “doesn’t pay as well as rubbish.” Moreover, Louisa had “never liked girls” or known many, other than her sisters Anna, Lizzie and May. She saw only the faintest possibility that the “queer plays and experiences” that they had shared would interest a popular audience.

Nevertheless, she set to work on an autobiographical novel which she initially called “The Pathetic Family,” and sarcastically assured her publisher that she would make her characters “as ordinary as possible.”

It took Louisa 12 weeks to complete Little Women. Reaching into her imagination she created a warm and supportive family providing the emotional security she never knew as a child, and when the novel became an instant best-seller, she suddenly realized the respect and financial security she never dreamed she would know.

September 29, 1914: Miracle Boston Braves clinch the NL Pennant

Coming off a year which saw the Boston Braves finish 31 ½ games out, the 1914 season looked to be a repeat. The Braves lost the opening two games to Brooklyn (8-2 and 5-0), and then plunged right to the bottom of the standings, losing 14 of their next 17 outings. By July 15th, with the season half over, the Braves were solidly in last place, 11 ½ games behind the first-place New York Giants.

Shortstop Rabbit Maranville remembered it well, “Gamblers were laying Boston Braves100-1 against us on Opening Day with hardly any takers. They raised the odds to 1,000-1 after the first month. By July 4, after we had been in the cellar all but three days, you could have gotten 1,000,000-1.”

James Gaffney owned the hapless team. Operating out of the smallest park in the major leagues, he was lucky to draw a few thousand fans to a game. He tried to spiff up the old South End Grounds and brought in George Tweedy Stallings, a Georgia boy, as manager.

After watching the Braves punt a doubleheader, Stallings was appalled, “It is a baseball horror”. Even when the Braves acquired Johnny Evers from the Cubs, Stallings admitted that the roster was at best “one .300 hitter, the worst outfield that ever flirted with sudden death, three pitchers, and a good working combination around second base.”

Gaffney was dismayed. After the club dropped another doubleheader, he told the club secretary “Say, when you see Stallings tell him to take that ball club and dump it in the ocean.” On July 7, the Braves played an exhibition game against the minor league Buffalo Bisons; they got trounced, 10-2. “Big league ballplayers you call yourselves, eh?” Stallings fumed as they boarded the train. “You’re not even Grade A sandlotters. I’m ashamed of you all.”

The players were downcast and embarrassed. “Can you play better ball than you have been playing?” Maranville asked Evers at a clubhouse meeting. “Yes, I think I can,” Evers replied. The teammates looked each other in the eye, asked the same question, and acknowledged that they could too.

Something clicked. The club took three of four from the Cubs, split four with the Cardinals, and took three from the Reds and four of five from the Pirates. They won nine in a row at home and began making up ground. “It wasn’t until the first of August that we thought we had a chance,” said Fred Mitchell “and then we didn’t talk about it.”

Their manager didn’t talk about it either. Stallings hadn’t shown signs of obsessions while his club was losing, but now that they were winning…. When he was walking to the ballpark one day he stopped for a piece of lemon meringue pie and it was so good that he had a second piece. The Braves won that day, so he had to order two pieces of lemon meringue every day. If one of his players got a hit, Stallings would freeze in place. Once, when a 10-hit rally began, he was reaching down to pick up a peanut shell, Stallings stayed bent over for so long that his players had to carry him out of the dugout.

Stallings tinkered with his outfield — he used 8 starters in left, 8 in center, and 11 in right. The pitching rotation of Bill James, Dick Rudolph, and Lefty Tyler started making hay. The Braves turned into a different team and went 61-16 over the second half of the season.

When they swept the Giants in mid-August, the Boston Globe proclaimed “Stallings, Worker of Miracles,” above a feature on the straw-hatted skipper, who wore a suit and bowtie on the bench. Boston drew even with New York and then they took the lead. As they started selling out stadiums, the Red Sox owner Joe Lannin offered them the use of his new Fenway Park.

The Braves could have filled two Fenway Parks for the Labor Day doubleheader with the Giants, which drew over 74,000 fans. “The overjoyed fans began throwing their straw hats in all directions,” reported the Globe after the Braves won the opener in the ninth. When Boston took the finale, 8-3, and pitcher George Davis, a Harvard Law School student, no-hit the Phillies the next day the momentum was unstoppable. “The Braves will win all right,” Connie Mack predicted. “Any team that can do what they have done in the last six or seven weeks will grab the National League pennant.”

The Braves clinched it at home against the Cubs. “I suppose that I have called you fellows a lot of hard names at various times during the season. I may have said that you were fatheads, boneheads, ivory tops, feather brains, and other things of that sort. Well, those names don’t go. You’re not any of those things I’ve called you. I’m not going to use any of those names again,” Stallings told his players, “At least until the World’s Series.”

Source: The Boston Globe

September 26, 1960: First Kennedy / Nixon TV Debate

By the time school had reopened in the fall of 1960, nearly everybody had a TV. Across the country, American families moved into the living room every evening to watch Dragnet, I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver, Perry Mason, or the Ed Sullivan Show.

JFK NixonOn the last Monday in September however, the Andy Griffith show as pre-empted, as 28 million homes tuned in for the first televised Presidential debate. John F Kennedy, the handsome young Senator from Massachusetts, and Richard Nixon, the seasoned Vice President from California, had each given many speeches and interviews and appeared on shows like Meet the Press and Face the Nation, but for the first time since the Lincoln – Douglas debates two presidential candidates agreed to debate in person, and this time the debates would be broadcast on both radio and television.

Kennedy spent the morning before the debate prepping with his aides “like young men at college cramming for an exam.” He took a nap in the afternoon, after which JFK met with his “brain trust” again, sitting on his bed with fact cards, reading each while firing questions at his aides, and then flinging the card onto the floor of the hotel room.

Nixon spent the day alone, with barely a visitor or phone call. He had a bit of a fever and was still nursing his knee which he had bashed on a car door while campaigning in North Carolina, and had then developed an infection which landed him in the hospital for two weeks.

At the TV studio, Don Hewitt, the debate producer asked both candidates if they wanted makeup; both declined. Kennedy was well-tanned from his open-air campaign stops in California. Nixon looked a bit pale, and as he had confided to Walter Cronkite before the debate, “I can shave within 30 seconds before I go on television and still have a beard.”

Instead of professional make up, Nixon’s aides gave him a quick coat of Lazy Shave, a drugstore pancake makeup he had used in the past to mask his five o’clock shadow. When he started sweating under the hot studio lights, the powder seemed to melt off his face, giving way to beads of perspiration. It didn’t help that Nixon’s light gray suit seemed to fade into the backdrop of the set and matched his ashen skin tone.

Howard K. Smith moderated the debate. Sander Vanocur, Charles Warren, Stuart Novins, and Bob Fleming questioned the candidates after their opening remarks. Both candidates spoke knowledgeably and in detail about education, health care, farming, the economy, labor, and the Cold War.

As the debate began, Kennedy stared directly into the camera as he answered each question. Nixon, on the other hand, addressed the questioning reporters who were standing away from the camera, shifting his gaze from side to side.

The next day, the New York Times reported that Senator Kennedy “maintained an expression of gravity suitable for a candidate for the highest office in the land,” while the vice president “dabbed frequently at the perspiration that beaded out on his chin.”

Nixon said “he thought he lost a couple of pounds and it might have shown up on his face,” but a physician traveling with the campaign said that there was nothing wrong with the vice president. Herbert Klein, Nixon’s press secretary attributed Nixon’s haggard look to the TV lights or the makeup he wore.

Reacting to the vice president’s on-air appearance, Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley reportedly said, “My God, they’ve embalmed him before he even died.” The Chicago Daily News interviewed an agent for the Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Union who asserted that a makeup artist deliberately sabotaged Nixon – “a Republican couldn’t have done that job.” Even Eisenhower chimed in about the “trials of television makeup” and that it’s too bad that “Dick has such a heavy beard.”

Nixon’s running mate, Henry Cabot Lodge, had watched the debate with dismay: “That son of a bitch just lost the election.”

September 25, 1639: The First Printing Press is set up in New England

Rev. Joseph Glover was a great supporter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. After seventeen ships had brought a thousand emigrants to Boston in 1630, Glover thought a printing press would be a vital improvement for the colony. He raised money, purchased a press, two trays of type, ink and reams of paper and found a pressman, Stephen Daye, to accompany him as he and his family sailed to New England. Stephen daye

Unfortunately, Reverend Glover died at sea, but the press and his widow and children and Stephen Daye made it ashore. Widow Glover had the press set up in Cambridge, where a college had just been started. The move to Cambridge was a good one on Elizabeth Glover’s part, because she soon became the wife of Henry Dunster, the first president of the College that would soon be named another young clergyman, John Harvard.

Stephen Daye was supposedly a good printer, but the evidence shows otherwise. In the first year he printed a broadsheet, The Freeman’s Oath and an almanack, and in 1640 printed the colony’s first book, the Bay Psalm Book. He received 300 acres of land from the colony for his work, which he promptly mortgaged for a cow, a calf, and a heifer. A close inspection of the book shows that, while the type was new and unworn, Daye didn’t really know what he was doing. Impressions were uneven, there were many typographical errors, commas and periods were used interchangeably, syllables were broken incorrectly.

By 1643, his fourth year on the job, Daye landed in jail (about average for a pressman). By 1648, he had been sacked from his job by President Dunster, who administered his wife’s affairs, and replaced by another pressman, Samuel Green. Daye hung around Cambridge, sued Dunster for one hundred pounds, and went to court to try to collect his real estate grant.

By 1656, there were two presses in Cambridge. These were the old “wine press” apparatuses; paper had to be brought in from England, and production was very slow. A lot of material was sent back to England to be printed if time allowed. By this time, however, the colonists had begun to teach young Indians to read. They wished to translate the Bible into the Indian languages, and it made sense to print where the Indian students could proofread the copy.

Green had printed 500 copies of the New Testament when Marmaduke Johnson arrived from London in 1660. Marmaduke was a pretty good pressman, although he had some run-in’s with the law in his past. His wife was back in England, so when he got to Cambridge he started hitting pretty hard on Samuel Green’s daughter; by 1662 a restraining order had to be put out on him. Nevertheless, Marmaduke got to work with Green printing the Bible which John Eliot was translating into Algonquin using a phonetic English alphabet. They also got help from a young Nipmunk Indian they named James the Printer.

The Bible consisted of about 150 press sheets, folded into signatures and then gathered, sewn, and bound into books. The pressrun was one thousand copies and it took a week to print each form, so, with Marmaduke’s periodic absences, it took more than two years to print. The printers had two trays of type, which was enough to set a form, but after each form was printed, the type had to be distributed back into the cases, so that it would be available for the next form. The New Testament came out in 1661. There were a few delays along the way due to Marmaduke’s “ issues”, and then the Old Testament was completed in 1663.

In 1714, the press became the property of Timothy Green who took it to New London, Connecticut. Over the years, the press moved several times through Connecticut and New Hampshire. It eventually printed the first Vermont newspaper, The Vermont Gazette, in Westminster in 1781. George Hough purchased the old press and moved it to Windsor in 1783 where he published The Vermont Journal and the Universal Advertiser.

After over 150 years of continuous work, the old Daye Press finally retired from daily work, but it can still be seen – at the Vermont Historical Society in Montpelier, Vermont.

September 24, 1742: Faneuil Hall Opens to the Public

Here Orators in ages past have mounted their attacks,
 Undaunted by the proximity of sausage on the racks. 
                                                          – Francis Hatch

Peter Faneuil amassed a fortune in the “triangle trade” in the early 18th century, and appreciative of his financial success gave his home town of Faneuil hall2Boston a central market building, above which a large meeting room became the central marketplace for ideas and the “Cradle of Liberty” for the young republic.

Here is John Greenleaf Whittier’s ode to the hall:

To Faneuil Hall

Men! if manhood still ye claim,
If the Northern pulse can thrill,
Roused by wrong or stung by shame,
Freely, strongly still;
Let the sounds of traffic die:
Shut the mill-gate, leave the stall,
Fling the axe and hammer by;
Throng to Faneuil Hall!

Wrongs which freemen never brooked,
Dangers grim and fierce as they,
Which, like couching lions, looked
On your fathers’ way;
These your instant zeal demand,
Shaking with their earthquake-call
Every rood of Pilgrim land,
Ho, to Faneuil Hall!

From your capes and sandy bars,
From your mountain-ridges cold,
Through whose pines the westering stars
Stoop their crowns of gold;
Come, and with your footsteps wake
Echoes from that holy wall;
Once again, for Freedom’s sake,
Rock your fathers’ hall!

Up, and tread beneath your feet
Every cord by party spun:
Let your hearts together beat
As the heart of one.
Banks and tariffs, stocks and trade,
Let them rise or let them fall:
Freedom asks your common aid,—
Up, to Faneuil Hall!

Up, and let each voice that speaks
Ring from thence to Southern plains,
Sharply as the blow which breaks
Prison-bolts and chains!
Speak as well becomes the free:
Dreaded more than steel or ball,
Shall your calmest utterance be,
Heard from Faneuil Hall!

Have they wronged us? Let us then
Render back nor threats nor prayers;
Have they chained our free-born men?
Let us unchain theirs!
Up, your banner leads the van,
Blazoned, “Liberty for all!”
Finish what your sires began!
Up, to Faneuil Hall!

September 23, 1944: FDR’s Fala Speech, and September 23, 1952: Nixon’s Checkers Speech

As Franklin Roosevelt opened his campaign for his fourth term as president, he was under the usual attacks from his rivals. He kicked off his campaign with a major speech at the Teamsters Union dinner in Washington DC. Knowing that the speech was being broadcast on all the major radio networks, Roosevelt went on the attack against his opponents in Congress and rebutted a litany of their many attacks on him. Late in the speech, Roosevelt addressed Republican charges that he had accidentally left Fala behind on an Aleutian Island while on tour there and had sent a. Navy destroyer to retrieve him at an exorbitant cost to the taxpayers:Fala.1

“These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don’t resent attacks, and my family doesn’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I had left him behind on the Aleutian Islands and had sent a destroyer back to find him – at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars- his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself – such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I have represented myself as indispensable. But I think I have a right to resent, to object to libelous statements about my dog.”

The audience went wild, laughing and cheering and calling for more, and the laughter carried into living rooms and kitchens throughout the country, where people were listening to the speech on their radios. The Fala bit was so funny, one reporter observed, that ‘even the stoniest of Republican faces cracked a smile.’

CheckersExactly eight years later, on September 23, 1952, when the Republican vice presidential candidate, California Senator Richard Nixon, found himself under attack from the Democrats for his personal finances, he reached deeply into the same bag of political rhetorical tricks, to rescue his floundering candidacy:

“Well, that’s about it. That’s what we have. And that’s what we owe. It isn’t very much. But Pat and I have the satisfaction that every dime that we’ve got is honestly ours. I should say this, that Pat doesn’t have a mink coat. But she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat, and I always tell her she’d look good in anything.

One other thing I probably should tell you, because if I don’t they’ll probably be saying this about me, too. We did get something, a gift, after the election. A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog. And believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore, saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was? It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he’d sent all the way from Texas, black and white, spotted. And our little girl Tricia, the six year old, named it “Checkers.” And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog, and I just want to say this, right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we’re gonna keep it.”

September 22, 1986: Ronald Reagan Addresses the United Nations

Reagan“How ironic it is that some continue to espouse such ideas as a `new international economic order’’ based on state control when the world is learning, as never before, that the freedom of the individual, not the power of the state, is the key to economic dynamism and growth. Nations have turned away from centralized management and government controls and toward the incentives and rewards of the free market. They have invited their citizens to develop their talents and abilities to the fullest and, in the process, to provide jobs, to create wealth, to build social stability and foster faith in the future for all. . .

The United States believes the greatest contribution we can make to world prosperity is the continued advocacy of the magic of the marketplace — the truth, the simple and proven truth, that economic development is an outgrowth of economic freedom just as economic freedom is the inseparable twin of political freedom and democratic government …

Some have accused me of telling people what they want to hear, of urging them not to engage the day but to escape it. Yet, to hope is to believe in humanity and in its future. Hope remains the highest reality, the age-old power. Hope is at the root of all the great ideas and causes that have bettered the lot of humankind across the centuries. History teaches us to hope, for it teaches us about man and about the irrepressible human spirit…

A Nobel laureate in literature, a great figure of the American South, William Faulkner, once said that the last sound heard on Earth would be that of the two remaining humans arguing over where to go in the spaceship they had built. In his speech to the Nobel committee in 1950, Faulkner spoke of the nuclear age, of the general and universal physical fear it had engendered, a fear of destruction that had become almost unbearable. But he said, “I decline to accept the end of man. I believe that man will not merely endure, he will prevail. He is immortal . . . because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.” Faulkner spoke of “the old verities and truths of the heart” — of the courage, honor, pride, compassion, pity, sacrifice, and, yes, that hope which is the glory of our past. And all of these things we find today in our present; we must use them to build our future.

And it’s why today we can lift up our spirits and our hearts. It is why we resolve that with God’s help the cause of humanity will not merely endure but prevail; that someday all the world — every nation, every people, every person — will know the blessings of peace and see the light of freedom.

Thank you, and God bless you.

September 19, 1796: George Washington’s Farewell Address is Published

“There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government, and serve to keep alive the spirit George Washingtonof liberty. This within certain limits is probably true and in governments of a monarchical cast patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose; and there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power and proneness to abuse it which predominates in the human heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern, some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them.”


September 18, 1932: The Girl on the Hollywood Sign

Peg Entwistle had a tough childhood. When she was just a child back in Wales, Her mother died. Her father brought her to New York, but he was soon run over by a car on Park Avenue.

Orphaned in the big city, Peg took up acting. By the time she turned 17 she was working Theater Guild productions on Broadway. The platinum blonde quickly got roles with big name actors and rising stars, including Ethel Barrymore, and began to make her own name as an actress. “I want to be exactly like Peg Entwistle,” Bette Davis reportedly said after witnessing Peg’s performance in Ibsen’s The Wild Duck.peg_entwistle1

Her personal life was complicated. She married a man 10 years her senior, but then she found out he had been married before and had a small son. Peg divorced him, but with her kind heart she helped him stay out of jail by paying the back alimony he owed his ex-wife.
In 1931, Peg appeared in Getting Married co-starring Dorothy Gish and in 1932 she co-starred with Laurette Taylor in Alice-Sit-By-The-Fire, but sometimes she had a hard time finding work. In 1932 she moved to Los Angeles, like many another young starlet, to find fame in the movies. She found stage work alongside a young Humphrey Bogart in The Mad Hopes, but the play closed after a brief run.

RKO signed her for the role of Hazel in the murder mystery Thirteen Women, starring Myrna Loy and Irene Dunne. The movie was a hokey, B-grade melodrama with a strange plot: “A group of former school friends start getting horoscopes from a fortune teller who is working under an evil influence.” Peg was extremely hopeful about her big screen debut. But when Thirteen Women came out, the critics wrote savage reviews, and most of Peg’s performance wound up on the cutting room floor.

Her studio options with RKO were dropped, and depression set in. On September 18, 1932, after a night of drinking, Peg told her Uncle Harold that she was going to walk up Beachwood Drive to meet some friends at the local drugstore.

Peg scratched and clawed her way up the rocky slope of Mt. Lee to the base of the “Hollywood” sign. She removed her black and tan silk coat, folded it neatly and placed it alongside her purse at the base of the 50 foot high ladder which led up the letter “H”.

The starlet then climbed up the ladder – losing one of her new shoes along the way – and, after peering out over the twinkling lights of the City of the Angels, she performed a perfect swan dive onto the rocky ground.

Peg Entwistle was 24 years old. Her note read: “I am afraid I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain.”

Peg Entwistle is not well remembered in Hollywood today, but hikers and rangers in Griffith Park do still report sightings from time to time of a very attractive, blond woman, dressed in 1930’s era clothing, who seems very sad, and who abruptly vanishes when approached. They also often remark on the pungent smell of gardenia, Peg’s trademark perfume, which lingers in the air even after the mysterious woman has disappeared.

September 17, 1849: Harriet Tubman escapes Poplar Neck Plantation

Harriet Tubman1I’ll meet you in the mornin’,
Safe in de promised land,
On the other side of Jordan,
Boun’ for de promised land,

And she started on her journey, “not knowing whither she went,” except that she was going to follow the North Star, till it led her to liberty. Cautiously and by night she traveled, cunningly feeling her way, and finding out who were friends; till after a long and painful journey she found, in answer to careful inquiries, that she had at last crossed that magic “line” which then separated the land of bondage from the land of freedom…

“When I found I had crossed that line,” she said, “I looked at my hands to see if I was de same person. 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.”

But then came the bitter drop in the cup of joy. … “I had crossed the line. 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 Maryland; because my father, my mother, my brothers, and sisters, and friends were there. But I was free, and they should be free. I would make a home in the North and bring them there, God helping me. Oh, how I prayed then,” she said; “I said to de Lord, ‘I’m gwine to hold steady on to you, and I know you’ll see me through.’ “

Source: Harrriet Tubman, The Moses of Her People, by Sarah Bradford

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