Harriet Tubman

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Araminta Harriet Davis (Ross)

Also Known As: "Minty", "Moses", "Hat", "enslaved by Edward Brodas", "Tubman"
Birthplace: Cambridge, Dorchester, Maryland, United States
Death: March 10, 1913 (86-95)
Auburn, Cayuga, New York, United States (Pneumonia)
Place of Burial: Auburn, Cayuga, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Benjamin Ross and Harriet Ross
Wife of John Tubman and Private Nelson Davis
Mother of Gertie Davis
Sister of Linah Jolley; Mariah Ritty Ross; Soph Ross; John Stewart (Robert Ross); James Stewart (Ben Ross) and 3 others

Occupation: Slave, Civil War Nurse, Suffragist, Civil Rights activist
Managed by: Linda Kathleen Thompson, (c)
Last Updated:

About Harriet Tubman

BIRTH DATE: c.1820. Because she was an enslaved Black woman, the exact date of her birth is unknown—although most accounts list either 1820 or 1821 as the year of her birth.

BIRTH PLACE: Anthony Thompson Plantation, Cambridge, Dorchester County, Maryland. Other sources state that (Edward) Brodess Farm as the location of Harriet Tubman's birth. Brodess Farm was located in Bucktown (near Cambridge), Dorchester, Maryland.

EDUCATION: Because she was enslaved, Harriet was denied the opportunity for education—and she therefore remained illiterate for her entire life (Enslavers did not want their victims to know how to read or write).

FAMILY BACKGROUND: Born into slavery on Maryland's Eastern Shore, Harriet was a descendant of African people whom had been trafficked to and enslaved in Colonial America in the 1700s. She was the 11th child born to Benjamin Ross and Harriet Greene (whom were enslaved by Edward Brodas), and she was named “Araminta”. Called “Minty" as a child, she decided to change her name altogether in adulthood. She therefore took her mother’s first name of “Harriet”.

Like many enslaved people were forced to do, Harriet was forced to work from an early age. When she was only five years old, she was "loaned out" to another plantation to check muskrat traps in icy cold rivers. She quickly became too sick to work and was returned to where she was normally forced to reside, malnourished and suffering from the cold exposure. Once she recovered, she was loaned out to another plantation, working as a nurse to the planter's infant child. By the time that she was 12 years old, she was working as a field hand, plowing and hauling wood. At 13 years old, while she was defending a fellow enslaved person whom tried to escape the plight of slavery, she suffered more trauma when her overseer struck her in the head with a two-pound weight. This resulted in recurring narcoleptic seizures, or sleeping spells, that plagued her the rest of her life.

In 1844, at about the age of 25, Harriet married John Tubman, a freeman. She gained permission to marry him from her enslavers and lived with him in his cabin, although she was required to continue living in slavery. When Harriet told John of her dreams of one day gaining her freedom, he told her that she would never be free. She faced additional spousal abuse when he told her that if she ever tried to escape slavery by running away, he would turn her in to her enslaver.

She ignored her husband’s threat and eventually ran to freedom. She also worked to bring over 300 other enslaved Black people to freedom, being a “conductor” on the “Underground Railroad”. Nonetheless, she did not forget her husband. On one of her first return visits to Maryland, she went to his cabin in hopes of getting him to go north with her. She found her hopes dashed when she learned that he had taken another wife. In 1869, she took Nelson Davis as her second husband.

She had no children with either of her husbands, and she died in 1913.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Because of the parallels between her enslavement and the Biblical story in which Moses freed the Israelites from slavery, Harriet Tubman earned the nickname "Moses”—as she was known as “the Moses of her people”.

Despite the hardships that she endured, she used her labors for self discipline and set for herself the goal of escaping to the North. She accomplished this goal after her enslaver died in 1849, and she ran to freedom alone and entirely on foot. She ran away from the plantation in the middle of the night and followed the North Star to free land in Pennsylvania.

As she heard rumors that she and two of her brothers were to be sold to a chain gang, she originally ran to freedom with the two brothers. When her brothers became too afraid to take the risk of being retaken hostage by their enslaver’s heirs, she was left alone when they returned to the plantation from which they had tried to flee. She nonetheless continued to run to freedom and travel only at night, determined to avoid detection by anyone whom would return her to slavery. She knew when she had finally crossed the border between slaveholding and non-slaveholding states. She later observed:

"I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person now I was free. There was such a glory over everything ... and I felt like I was in heaven."

Harriet had bravely won her freedom. Because of this and because she realized how nonetheless alone she was, she made a vow that she would help her family and friends win their own freedom. She therefore went to Philadelphia and began earning money to help her loved ones. By cooking, laundering, and scrubbing, she saved enough money to finance rescue trips.

She also became involved with the city's large and active abolitionist (anti-slavery) organizations. She additionally became involved with organizers of the Underground Railroad, a secret network through which enslaved people were helped in escaping from bondage in the South to freedom in the North and Canada.

Using the Wilmington, Delaware home of Quaker abolitionist Thomas Garrett (1789-1871) as a checkpoint, Harriet Tubman undertook some 20 hazardous missions in which she covertly journeyed down south and pinpointed enslaved people whom sought freedom. She led them to freedom up north, at times going as far as Canada. In leading these flights and with a long rifle in hand, she warned her escapees that if any of them even considered surrendering or returning, she would kill them rather than let return to slavery.

She evidently persuaded the people whom she rescued to run all the way to freedom. Never on any of her missions did she lose a "passenger" on the Underground Railroad. As a result and in addition to her nickname of "Moses," she received the nickname "General Tubman” from the militant abolitionist John Brown, with whom she worked in Canada.

William Still (who recorded activities of the Underground Railroad) described her as follows:

"[A] woman of no pretensions, indeed, a more ordinary specimen of humanity could hardly be found among the most unfortunate-looking farm hands of the South. Yet, in point of courage, shrewdness and disinterested exertions to rescue her fellow-men ... she was without her equal."

Her name quickly spread throughout the slave quarters and abolitionist societies. All of this angered the Southern enslavers, whom offered $40,000 for her capture. But she always evaded slavecatchers and would not quit. She persisted even when her illiteracy nearly got her caught, as she once fell asleep under her own wanted poster.

As for her family, she kept her promise to not leave them enslaved. She rescued her sister in 1850, one brother in 1851, her other three brothers in 1854, and her parents in 1857. She also purchased for her parents a home in Auburn, New York. She purchased the home Senator William H. Seward of New York, an advocate of hers.

Around 1858, Harriet teamed up with John Brown when he plotted a raid on Harper's Ferry, Virginia. She planned to help him raid the armory there, distribute weapons among enslaved people, and instigate a rebellion. Although she helped him with fundraising, she fell ill and therefore was rendered unable to participate in the raid with him. She reflected on this in one of her last interviews in 1912, and she referred to him as "my dearest friend."

In the 12 years from her escape to the beginning of the American Civil War (which occurred from 1861 to 1865), Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad became the most dominant force of abolitionism. Their work was not yet done, meanwhile, as the Civil War would require them to aid the United States Armed Forces (“Union”) in fighting the enslavers whom were now also traitors (“Confederates”). For her part, Harriet Tubman served with the Union Army as a cook, laundress, nurse, scout, and spy behind Confederate lines. In 1862, she moved to Beaufort, South Carolina when it was occupied by the Union. While she was there and with the assistance of several missionary teachers, she helped hundreds of enslaved Sea Islanders transition from bondage to freedom. She also undertook scouting and spying missions, identifying potential targets for the Army, such as cotton stores and ammunition storage areas.

The Boston Commonweath described her efforts in July 1863:

"Col. Montgomery and his gallant band of 800 black soldiers, under the guidance of a black woman, dashed in to the enemies' country ... destroying millions of dollars worth of commissary stores, cotton and lordly dwellings, and striking terror to the heart of rebeldom, brought off near 800 slaves and thousands of dollars worth of property."

In 1865, Harriet began caring for wounded Black soldiers as the matron of the Colored Hospital at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. She also continued helping others after the war ended in April of that year. She raised money for freedmen's schools, helped destitute children, and continued caring for her parents.

In 1868, she transformed her family's home into the Home for Aged and Indigent Colored People. She also lobbied for educational opportunities for freedmen. She believed that she had been called by God to help her people, and she once told an interviewer:

"Now do you suppose he wanted me to do this just for a day, or a week? No! the Lord who told me to take care of my people meant me to do it just so long as I live, and so I do what he told me to do."

Also in 1868, Harriet began working on her autobiography with Sarah Hopkins Bradford, a White schoolteacher in Auburn, New York. She saw it published first in that year, and then later under a revised title in 1886 (See below). In 1869, Harriet married Nelson Davis, a Union veteran whom was half her age and whom had been a boarder at her house. She remained his wife until he died of tuberculosis in 1888.

Harriet did not let widowhood deter her from helping others even in her particular times of need, as she took up the suffragist cause. In 1896, she was a delegate to the National Association of Colored Women's first annual convention, as she believed that the right to vote was vital to preserving all Black women’s freedom.

Around the turn of the century, she bought 25 acres of land near her home with money which she raised through benefactors and speaking engagements, and she made arrangements for the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church to take over the Home, as she had worked closely with this church since the 1850s. Through the church , she also befriended Frederick Douglass, whom had briefly published his abolitionist newspaper, The North Star, there.

In 1911, Harriet herself was welcomed into the Home. As her destitute condition moved many of her fellow NACW members to compassion for her, she experienced some alleviation when they voted to provide her with a lifelong monthly pension of $25. Living into her 90s, she died in Auburn on March 10, 1913. She was given a full military funeral and was buried in Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn.

The women of the NACW once again came through for her, and they paid her funerary costs and purchased a marble headstone for her. One year later, the city of Auburn commemorated her life with a memorial tablet at the front of the Cayuga County Courthouse. In 1944, Eleanor Roosevelt christened the Liberty Ship Harriet Tubman, and in 1995 the U.S. Postal Service honored her life with a postage stamp.


Story about Harriet Tubman that was written by Sarah H. Bradford http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/bradford/bradford.html

http://www.harriettubmanbiography.com/harriet-tubman-s-flight-to-fr... https://dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/eastern/Tubman/Timeline....

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Harriet Tubman's Timeline

March 1822
Cambridge, Dorchester, Maryland, United States
March 10, 1913
Age 91
Auburn, Cayuga, New York, United States
Fort Hill Cemetery, Auburn, Cayuga, New York, United States