Early Life and Childhood of Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland, in the early 1820s. The exact date of her birth is unknown as birth records for enslaved people were often not kept. She was named Araminta Ross at birth, but later changed her name to Harriet after she escaped from slavery.
As a child, Harriet experienced the brutality of slavery firsthand. She was hired out to work in other households by her enslavers and was frequently beaten and mistreated. She also suffered a severe head injury when an overseer threw a heavy metal weight at another slave but hit Harriet instead.
Despite the challenges she faced, Harriet was a determined and resilient child. She learned how to navigate the woods and marshes around her home, skills that would prove invaluable when she later escaped from slavery and helped others do the same.
Harriet Tubman’s Life as an Escaped Slave
In 1849, Harriet Tubman escaped slavery and fled to Philadelphia with the help of the Underground Railroad, a network of abolitionists who aided enslaved people in their escape to freedom. However, Harriet did not remain content with her own freedom; she made it her mission to help others escape slavery as well.
Over the next decade, Harriet returned to the South numerous times, risking her own life to guide enslaved people to freedom. She became known as the “Moses of her people” for her bravery and leadership in the fight against slavery. She even carried a gun with her on these trips, ready to defend herself and those she was helping.
During the Civil War, Harriet served as a nurse, cook, and spy for the Union Army. She helped lead a raid that liberated over 700 enslaved people in South Carolina, making her the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war.
Harriet Tubman’s Contributions to the Underground Railroad
Harriet Tubman’s contributions to the Underground Railroad were significant and enduring. She made 13 missions to rescue enslaved people, leading around 70 people to freedom during these trips. She used a variety of tactics to evade slave catchers and ensure the safety of those she was helping, including disguises, secret codes, and hiding in churches and safe houses.
Harriet also worked closely with other abolitionists, including William Still and Thomas Garrett, to coordinate and fund her missions. She was a powerful speaker and fundraiser, using her own experiences as a formerly enslaved person to inspire others to join the fight against slavery.
After the Civil War, Harriet continued to fight for the rights of Black people, including women’s suffrage. She spoke at suffrage rallies and was a founding member of the National Association of Colored Women. Her legacy as an abolitionist, suffragist, and humanitarian continues to inspire generations.
Harriet Tubman’s Later Years and Legacy
After the Civil War, Harriet Tubman settled in Auburn, New York, where she lived for the rest of her life. She married a Union soldier, Nelson Davis, and they adopted a daughter together. Harriet supported herself and her family through farming and selling produce, as well as by giving lectures about her experiences as an abolitionist.
In her later years, Harriet became increasingly involved in the women’s suffrage movement. She worked alongside prominent suffragists such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, speaking at rallies and advocating for women’s right to vote.
Harriet Tubman passed away in 1913 at the age of 91. She was buried with military honors at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn. In the years since her death, Harriet’s legacy has only grown. She has been honored on postage stamps, featured on the $20 bill, and celebrated in books, movies, and other works of art. Her courage, determination, and commitment to justice continue to inspire people around the world.
Remembering Harriet Tubman’s Birthday and Achievements
Harriet Tubman’s birthday, March 10th, is celebrated as a day to remember her life and accomplishments. In 2020, it was announced that the US Treasury Department would redesign the $20 bill to feature Harriet Tubman, making her the first woman and the first Black person to appear on US currency.
Many organizations and individuals continue to honor Harriet’s legacy by advocating for social justice and fighting against discrimination and inequality. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, located in Maryland, preserves the landscapes and landmarks that were significant to Harriet’s life and work.
Harriet Tubman’s bravery, leadership, and commitment to freedom continue to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds. Her contributions to the fight against slavery and for women’s rights have earned her a place in history as a true American hero.