Harriet Ross Tubman was an African American who escaped slavery and then showed runaway slaves the way to freedom in the North for longer than a decade before the American Civil War. During the war she was as a scout, spy, and nurse for the United States Army. After that she kept working for rights for blacks and women.
Harriet Tubman was originally named Araminta Ross. She was one of 11 children born to Harriet Greene and Benjamin Ross on a plantation in Dorchester County, Maryland. She later took her mother's first name. Harriet was working at the age of five. She was a maid and a children's nurse before she worked in the field when she was 12. A year later, a white guy either her watcher or her master smacked her on the head with a really heavy weight. The hit was so hard it left her with permanent neurological damage. In result of the hit she had sudden blackouts during the rest of her life.
In 1844 she got permission from her master to marry John Tubman, a free black man. For the next five years Harriet Tubman was a semi-slave. She was still legally a slave, but her master let her live with her husband. In 1847 her master died. Followed by the death of his recipient and young son in 1849. That made Harriet’s status uncertain. In the middle of rumors that the family's slaves were being sold to clear the estate, Harriet Tubman went to the North and freedom. Her husband stayed in Maryland. In 1849 Harriet Tubman moved to Pennsylvania. She returned to Maryland two years later hoping to get her husband to come to The North with her. John Tubman had remarried by then. Harriet did not marry again until after John Tubman died.
In Pennsylvania, Harriet Tubman became an abolitionist. She worked to end slavery. She decided to become a conductor on the Underground Railroad (a network of antislavery activists who helped slaves escape from the South). On her first trip in 1850, Harriet Tubman brought her sister and her sister's two children out of slavery in Maryland. In 1851 she rescued her brother, and in 1857 Harriet Tubman returned to Maryland and brought her parents to freedom.
Over a time period of ten years Harriet Tubman made an estimated 19 trips into the South and brought about 300 slaves to the North. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 had created federal commissioners in every county to support the return of runaways. It gave harsh punishments for those convicted of helping slaves to escape. The law wanted Harriet Tubman, so in 1851 she moved to St. Catharines, a city in Ontario, Canada. That was the destination of many escaped slaves. By the late 1850s a number of Northern states passed personal liberty laws that protected the rights of fugitive slaves. Harriet Tubman was able to buy land and move with her parents to Auburn, New York.
Harriet Tubman faced great danger guiding slaves to freedom. Southerners offered big rewards for her to be caught. Harriet Tubman used disguises (sometimes posing as a deranged old man and, at other times, as an old woman) to stay away from touch when traveling in slave states. She carried sleeping powder to stop babies from crying and always had a pistol to prevent the people from backing out once they started going to freedom.
Harriet Tubman always changed her route and her methods of working. Though she almost always began her journeys on Saturday night for two reasons. First, many masters did not make their slaves work on Sundays and not realize they were gone until Monday, when the slaves had already traveled a full day and a half. Second, newspapers advertising the escape wouldn’t be published until the beginning of the week, so by the time copies reached readers, Harriet Tubman and the fugitive slaves were likely to be near their destination in the North.
Harriet Tubman never lost any of her control and had a weird ability to find food and shelter during these hard missions. Among other African Americans she came to be known as Moses (Biblical hero who led the Hebrews out of enslavement in Egypt.)
Harriet Tubman was an inspiration to both white and black abolitionists. She worked closely with a black antislavery activist named William Still in Philadelphia with Underground Railroad conductor Thomas Garrett, a Quaker who lived in Wilmington, Delaware. An abolitionist named John Brown gave her the title "General Tubman." She discussed with John Brown his plan to start a revolution against slavery in the South. She got sick. That prevented her from joining him at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), in his unlucky 1859 attack.
When the Civil War began in 1861, Harriet Tubman served as a nurse, scout, and spy for the Union Army in South Carolina. She prepared food for the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, made up of black soldiers only. She later got an official thank you, but no pay for her work. In 1869 she married an African American war veteran, Nelson Davis. He died in 1890.
Harriet Tubman spent the years after the war in the North. She continued her work to improve the blacks lives in the United States. She raised money to help escaped slaves with food, shelter, and education. Harriet Tubman also created a care center for the elderly in her house in Auburn. Harriet Tubman wasn’t able to read or write. In 1869 her friend Sarah Bradford helped her write her biography, Scenes from the Life of Harriet Tubman, so that her accomplishments could be inspiring to others.
Harriet Tubman became involved in getting the rights of women, mostly of black women. In 1895 she was a representative at the first and only meeting of the National Conference of Colored Women in America (NCCWA), (a group formed to combat attacks, made by the press and others, on the morality and civic pride of African American women.) The NCCWA changed into the National Association of Colored Women in 1896. Harriet Tubman was not very involved in this group. She became a strong supporter of woman suffrage.
In 1974, after more then 60 years Harriet Tubman's death, the Department of the Interior made her former home in Auburn a national historic landmark. In 1978 the U.S. Postal Service honored its Black Heritage Series with a stamp of Harriet Tubman.
Harriet Ross Tubman was an Amazing African American. She accomplished so much. During the war she was as a scout, spy, and nurse for the United States Army. After that she kept working for rights for blacks and women. She saved over 300 peoples lives and for that and all her other accomplishments she is very different from all other people.