10 Facts About Harriet Tubman
2 months ago
Learn more about this ex-slave-turned-abolitionist.
Nearly 200 years after her birth, Harriet Tubman is remembered as being the conductor of the “Underground Railroad.” What makes Tubman remarkable is not only that she fought for the abolition of slavery but that she also put her life on the line to literally rescue number of slaves from the “peculiar institution.” Learn more about why Tubman’s contributions to U.S. society make her a Black History Month icon.
Born in Dorchester County, Md., circa 1820, Tubman began working as a house slave at the young age of just five or six. By her early teens, Tubman worked as a field slave.
As a slave, Tubman sustained a head injury after she tried to intervene when an overseer threw a two-pound weight at a field hand. The weight hit her instead and throughout her life, she suffered bouts of unconsciousness as a result.
Tubman’s birth name was Araminta Ross. She named herself Harriet after her mother. When she married a free person of color named John Tubman in 1844, she took his surname.
Five years after marrying, Tubman feared that she would be sold so she left her plantation one night, allowing the North Star to guide her. She eventually settled in Philadelphia.
Over a decade, Tubman traveled to the South 19 times and rescued more than 300 slaves from slavery.
PBS notes that Tubman used a variety of tactics to make her rescues successful, “including using the master’s horse and buggy for the first leg of the journey; leaving on a Saturday night, since runaway notices couldn’t be placed in newspapers until Monday morning; turning about and heading south if she encountered possible slave hunters; and carrying a drug to use on a baby if its crying might put the fugitives in danger.” Tubman also threatened to shoot slaves who said they were too tired or scared to make an escape after she rescued them.
Tubman became notorious for helping slaves escape. In 1856, a $40,000 reward was announced for her capture.
Tubman helped a number of family members escape, including her sister ad her elderly parents.
Abolitionists such as John Brown and Frederick Douglass praised Tubman for her work. Brown called her “one of the bravest persons on the continent,” according to PBS.
Tubman also exhibited bravery by working as a cook, nurse and in other capacities for the Union army during the Civil War. She died in 1913.
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