Harriet Tubman freed more than 70 slaves over the course of 13 clandestine missions in her lifetime. That number is infinitesimal compared to the millions of Africans in bondage before the American Civil War. But Tubman’s legend had a psychological impact on the enslaved and the free, on Black and white, that far exceeded her armspan and lifespan. Tubman, the tenacious liberator of Black slaves, was called “Moses” because she led her people to “the promised land.” Some people have also called the election and inauguration of Barack Obama’s as the 44th president of the United States a substantial fulfillment of that American promise.

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