Harriet Tubman, 1820-1913

  • Harriet-Tubman-WWP

Woman Category: Activism & Feminism and Politics & LeadersWoman Tags: 19th Amendment Centennial Anniversary, Abolitionist, African-American Women, NYC Women, and Suffragist

  • HerStory

    “The Black Moses,” a former slave and an iconic brave leader who freed hundreds of enslaved people.

    Born as Araminta Ross into an enslaved family, her exact year of birth unknown, estimated between 1815 and 1825. She was tasked with collecting muskrats from traps and working in the fields from an early age, as well as being separated from her family for several times. As a teenager she witnessed an enslaved person trying to escape, she blocked the door with her body to prevent his capture, and an overseer hit her in the head with a heavy metal weight. The injury has caused her hallucinations, and she would suddenly fall asleep.
    She later escaped herself, with her two brothers who joined her, but they regretted and returned. Tubman continued, traveling by foot from Maryland to Pennsylvania. She returned 19 more times over a decade, as a conductor of the Underground Railroad – a secret network of routes to escape slavery. Among the hundreds of people who she led to freedom was her family.
    During the Civil War, Tubman served as a nurse, a cook, and a spy. Her work was not acknowledged officially, and she struggled financially while being generously philanthropic. She led a 34-year campaign against the government to get her veteran’s pension, sold vegetables from her garden, and published two biographies with the help of friends, to raise funds. She traveled the country giving popular public speeches in support of suffrage and human rights.
    She was married twice, once before her escape. She changed her name, taking her mother’s first name Harriet, and her first husband’s family name, Tubman. In her sixties, she married Nelson Davis, who was about 20 years younger than her. She never had children, and with Davis, they adopted a daughter, her niece.
    Before her death in her nineties, she established a home for elderly black people. She was buried with military honors in the Auburn’s Fort Hill Cemetery.

    “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves”

    “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves”

    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She always carried a weapon on her journeys in the Underground Railroad, to threaten those who considered turning back.
    • She would disguise herself by dressing up as a man or as an old woman to avoid getting caught.
    • She is proud to have never combed her hair and said it saved her life during the head injury.
    • She never learned to read or write.
    • She was well-known for never losing a passenger in the underground railroad.
    • Slave owners offered very high rewards of $40,000 for her capture.
    • In 2016 the US Treasury announced that a new design of the $20 bill would have her portrait. The new design is expected in 2020.
    • She is said to have been the only woman who led men into battle during the Civil War.
    • Harriet Tubman Day is observed annually on the day she died, on March 10th, 1913.


  • More About Her Legacy
    Creations By and About Her:

    * Books about her
    * The movie “Harriet” (2019) about Harriet Tubman's escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes


    * The US Maritime Commission named its first Liberty Ship after her
    * Queen Victoria of England awarded her with a silver medal in 1897

  • Watch and Learn More

  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Harriet Tubman: Humanitarian. Leader. Hero.

    This video celebrates Harriet Tubman's heroism and commemorates the 100th anniversary of her death in 1912.

    Harriet Tubman was a key figure in the Underground Railroad -- a secret network used by thousands of slaves to escape to freedom during the 19th century. After escaping slavery herself, Tubman risked her own life countless times to help others find freedom.

    For more information about Harriet Tubman visit: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/multiculturalism/black/people.asp?utm_source=youtube-vid-eng&utm_medium=youtube&utm_campaign=generic&expand=tubman#tubman

    Closed captioning for this video, along with a transcript and downloadable versions, are available at: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/multimedia/video/bhm/tubman.asp?utm_source=youtube-vid-eng&utm_medium=youtube&utm_campaign=generic

  • Photo credit - Emily Howland photograph album @ Library of Congress.