Harriet Tubman was a nurse and a civil rights activist. Born in 1820 in Dorchester Country, Maryland, she was best known as a leader in the Underground Railroad. Harriet Tubman was born a slave on a plantation in Maryland. Many historians believe she was born in 1820 or 1821, but birth records were kept by slave owners. Her birth name was Araminta Ross, but when she was 13, she took the name of her mother, Harriet. For her, life as a slave was difficult. Harriet first lived in a one-room cabin with her family that included 11 children. By the age of 6, she was loaned out to another family where she helped take care of a baby. While living there, she was sometimes beaten and all she got was table scraps to eat. Later, Harriet worked a number of jobs on the plantation such as growing plowing fields and loading produce onto wagons. In doing so, she became strong doing manual labor that also included hauling logs and driving oxen. At the age thirteen, however, Harriet received a horrible head injury. When she was visiting a town, a slave owner tried to throw an iron weight at one of his slaves but hit Harriet instead. The injury nearly killed her and caused her to have dizzy spells and for the rest of her life.
During this time, there were states in the northern United States where slavery was outlawed or banned. Slaves would try to escape to the north using the infamous, Underground Railroad. This wasn’t a real railroad. It was a number of safe homes called stations. These hid slaves as they traveled north. The people that helped the slaves were called conductors. Slaves would move from station to station at night, hiding in the woods or sneaking into trains until their journey ended reaching the north and freedom. Harriet married John Tubman in 1844. He was a free black man. In 1849, Harriet decided to escape. She would use the Underground Railroad. After a long and scary trip, Harriet made it to Pennsylvania and was finally free. After a year of freedom for Harriet and her family, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850. This meant slaves could be taken from the free states and returned to their owners. In order to have complete freedom, slaves now had to escape to Canada. Harriet wanted to help others, including her family, find safety in Canada. She joined the Underground Railroad as a conductor. She led nineteen different escapes from the south and helped around 300 slaves escape. She became known as “Moses” because, in the bible, she led people to her freedom. She was so successful in helping slaves to escape that, at one point, slave owners offered a reward of $40,000 for her capture. Harriet was truly brave. She risked her life and freedom to help others. She never got caught and never lost a slave. After the civil war, Harriet lived in New York with her family. She married again in 1869 to Nelson Davis. She helped poor and sick people. She also spoke out on equal rights for blacks and women. Harriet Tubman will always be remembered and an important part of the slaves she helped get freedom.
Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. – Harriet Tubman