Word Power | Harriet Tubman

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Learn unequivocal, waver, pursue, raid, venture, privy, ammunition, vital, expedition, and personify in the context of a story about the great Harriet Tubman in a new Word Power episode from English Plus Podcast.

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Harriet Tubman

Born a slave in Maryland around the year 1815, Harriet Tubman was forced to work as a field hand by her cruel plantation overseer. In 1849, Tubman fled the plantation, leaving behind her husband, her parents, and her brothers and sisters. Tubman was driven by her belief that all African Americans should be free. Her unequivocal dedication to this cause never wavered. Risking her life as well as her freedom, she returned to the South no fewer than 19 times to lead her family and hundreds of other slaves to freedom. Tubman guided the escaping slaves north along the Underground Railroad, a secret organization that aided the escape of slaves to Canada. None of the fugitives Harriet Tubman led to safety was ever captured. All the while, Tubman herself was pursued by bounty hunters who sought the 40 thousand dollars offered for her capture.

Tubman later helped John Brown when he planned his attack on Harper’s Ferry in 1858. She provided valuable information that helped him carry out his raid. She even planned to participate in the raid but was ill at the time. When the Civil War broke out three years later, Tubman assisted the Union Army as a nurse and served as both a scout and a spy. Her knowledge of the land, her experience at secret travel, and her ability to blend easily into groups of people allowed her to carry out her duties without being spotted. She was so important to the Union Army, in fact, that she was a leader of a corps of local blacks who ventured into rebel territory to gather information. Because she was privy to information on the location of warehouses and ammunition depots, she was able to provide vital information to Union commanders. Her information helped Colonel James Montgomery make several expeditions into southern areas to destroy supplies. After the war, Tubman returned to New York, where, while caring for her own family, she helped escaped and newly freed blacks begin their lives. She earned money by giving speeches and selling copies of her biography. In 1896, she was the oldest member present for the organizational meeting of the National Association of Colored Women. Called “the Moses of her people,” Tubman came to personify the strength and determination that eventually led to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.


If you describe someone’s attitude as unequivocal, you mean that it is completely clear and very firm.

clear, absolute, definite, certain

He stated unequivocally that his forces were ready to go to war.

If you waver, you cannot decide about something or you consider changing your mind about something.

hesitate, dither, vacillate, be irresolute

Some military commanders wavered over whether to support the coup.

If you pursue a person, vehicle, or animal, you follow them, usually in order to catch them.

follow, track, hunt, chase

She pursued the man who had stolen a woman’s bag.

When soldiers raid a place, they make a sudden armed attack against it, with the aim of causing damage rather than occupying any of the enemy’s land.

steal from, break into, loot, plunder

The guerrillas raided banks and destroyed a police barracks and an electricity substation.

If you venture somewhere, you go somewhere that might be dangerous.

go, travel, journey, set out

People are afraid to venture out for fear of sniper attacks.

If you are privy to something secret, you have been allowed to know about it.

informed of, aware of, in on, wise to

Only three people, including a police officer, will be privy to the facts.

ammunition is bullets and rockets that are made to be fired from guns.

munitions, rounds, shot, shells

He had only seven rounds of ammunition for the revolver.

If you say that something is vital, you mean that it is necessary or very important.

essential, important, necessary

After her release, she was able to give vital information about her kidnapper.

An expedition is an organized journey that is made for a particular purpose such as exploration.

journey, exploration, mission, voyage

This is not an exploration or a scientific expedition.

If you say that someone personifies a particular thing or quality, you mean that they seem to be a perfect example of that thing, or to have that quality to a very large degree.

embody, represent, express, mirror

She seemed to personify goodness and nobility.

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