When John Brown met Harriet Tubman

When John Brown met Harriet Tubman

John Brown and Harriet Tubman met for the first time in April of 1858 in St. Catherines, on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. Brown, awestruck at meeting Tubman, dubbed her “General” Tubman and referred to her as one of the best and bravest persons on the planet.

Tubman felt that she had already met John Brown in a dream. W.E.B Du Bois wrote in his biography of Tubman that she “laid great stress on a dream which she had had just before she met Captain Brown in Canada… [in her dream] she saw a serpent raise its head among the rocks, and as it did so, it became the head of an old man with a long white beard, gazing at her ‘wishful like’ …and then two other heads rose up beside him, younger than he … a great crowd of men rushed in and struck down the younger heads, and then the head of the old man, still looking at her so ‘wishful!’ This dream she had again and again and could not interpret it; but when she met Captain Brown, shortly after, behold he was the very image of the head she had seen.”

Tubman assisted with raid planning by drawing on her geographical knowledge of clandestine activities and resources in the Mid-Atlantic region as well as recruiting formerly enslaved people in Canada to support the cause. Tubman fell ill and couldn’t join Brown in the raid on Harpers Ferry.

Tubman's recurring prophetic visions about John Brown seemed to prove true. John Brown’s raid ultimately ended with all but five raiders captured or killed. A great crowd struck down Brown’s sons, Oliver and Watson, who were killed in the raid (represented in Tubman’s dream as the two heads). Virginia came for the head of the bearded man in her dream, John Brown, putting him on trial for treason, murder and inciting a slave rebellion. Brown was found guilty and executed six weeks later.

“General” Tubman continued leading enslaved people to freedom as a conductor of Underground Railroad--personally rescuing about 70 people in 13 trips and assisting many more to freedom. She was a spy for the Union army and lived to see the end of slavery in the United States.

Last updated: January 31, 2023

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