Who was Harriet Tubman? If you have wondered why she is so well-known, read on.
Harriet Tubman, born Araminta Ross circa 1822, escaped slavery and went on to carry out thirteen missions to personally rescue some 70 slaves over about 13 trips, using a network of anti-slavery activists and shelters. Yes, it is called the Underground Railroad.
Helping other slaves, her life in danger
Because of her heroic efforts, she is often referred to as the “Moses of her people.” Her efforts are especially noble given that she was born a slave and fled in 1849 from Maryland to Philly for freedom. In other words, she risked her freedom to help slaves escape on the Underground Railroad from the South to the North.
She had spent much of her life up until that time being abused as a slave. She was now free from slavery after escaping when her legal owner died. Yet, Tubman risked so much to help others also get to freedom, including family members. No wonder she is known as a hero! Sadly, she suffered from headaches and seizures as a result of being beaten.
As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Tubman was doing work in secret as those in the Southern States called what she was doing to be “slave stealers.” There was the risk of being put in jail under the Fugitive Slave Act.
Yet, she continued to help her niece and two kids escape, as well as so many others. Tubman had to be sleuth-like, wearing disguises, talking with third parties to coordinate escape plans, and more. Her missions were very dangerous.
Harriet Tubman’s work in the Civil War
That’s not all. During the American Civil War, Tubman served at first as a cook and nurse before becoming an armed scout and spy for the Union Army. She helped give clothes and meals to escaped slaves coming to the Union Army’s camps. She was the first woman to be leader to an armed expedition in wartime.
When President Abraham Lincoln enabled the recruitment and deployment of African-American troops, Tubman provided intelligence to these new units along with other spies.
Following the war
Following the civil war, Tubman continued her civil rights and women’s efforts. All while tending to her land in Auburn, New York, and caring for her family and others who lived there. In 1903, she donated part of her land to Auburn’s African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. She also paid for the building of a nursing home on the plot of land beside hers.
She died in 1913 at the age of 90 and was buried in Fort Hill Cemetery with militia honors. She has been well-recognized since then through countless biographies and books for kids. Tubman was the first African-American woman to be on a US postal stamp. Her care home (Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged) was also deemed a National Historic Landmark in the ’70s.
Harriet Tubman: An amazing legacy
Harriet Tubman is one of the true heroines of the 19th century. Her goal was to free those in servitude, no matter the challenges or danger. She never stopped protesting against slavery, much like Sojourner Truth. Her work will never be forgotten.
Top photo: National Park Service, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons