Born about 1820
Died 10 March 1913
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery sometime about 1820 in Maryland as Araminta Ross. Although she had been named Araminta she eventually took her mother’s name of Harriet. Having been born a slave, Harriet’s family lived together in a one room shack. They lived in constant fear of any family member being sold to another owner, breaking their family apart.
At six years of age Harriet was sent away to learn to weave. However, while she was there she became extremely sick with the measles and was finally allowed to return.
Even as a young child Harriet showed spirit and determination. She often gathered with other slaves, an act which was forbidden by many owners. At these gatherings she attended religious services and listened to stories about slaves who had escaped to other states. Harriet’s master, in an attempt to squelch her determination, hired her out to families to clean an cook. He also forced her to work in the fields, which was usually reserved for the men.
Once when Harriet was in a store she saw a slave attempting to run away. When his master threw a heavy weight at the slave to stop him, Harriet stepped in the way and was hit in the head by the weight. She was knocked unconscious and nearly died. For the rest of her life Harriet suffered from sudden blackouts.
In 1844 Harriet Ross married a free man, named John Tubman. She hoped that he would help her become free, but he refused to do so. After that Harriet began to plan a way to escape alone. With help from a Quaker woman she eventually escaped in 1849 on the Underground railroad to the freedom of Pennsylvania and on into Canada.
Harriet was not content with her own freedom. She wanted to help her relatives to freedom and went back South to guide them along the Underground Railroad. She went back time and again helping over 300 slaves gain their freedom.
As the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad, Harriet was always at risk. Rewards were posted for her capture dead or alive. Slaves began to refer to her as "Moses" in reference to Moses from the Bible who led the Jewish people to freedom.
Harriet Tubman was never captured and she never lost a slave on the journey North. However, she was a tough conductor of the railroad, carrying a pistol with her on many trips. When runaway slaves would become scared, she would threaten to use the gun if they tried to return South, knowing that their return could mean their own death as well as the deaths of all those involved in helping the slaves escape.
During the Civil War, Harriet assisted the Union Army serving as cook, nurse, scout, and spy against the Confederate Army. Later Harriet established a home for poor black people. She died on March 10, 1913 in the state of New York. Because of her service she was given a full military funeral.
- Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad In The Sky, by Faith Ringgold - Written and illustrated by a contemporary African American artist, this fictional book ties together the author’s own life with inspiration from Harriet Tubman’s life. It also includes a short biography of Harriet Tubman’s life as an addendum. (amazon.com has it)
- Nettie’s Trip South, by Ann Turner - A story based on the diary of a young girl’s trip South in 1859 where she witnesses a slave auction. (amazon.com has it)
- Harriet Tubman page by the second graders at the Pocantico Hills School in New York state - timeline, poetry, character sketches, etc.