Harriet Ross Tubman


Born Araminta Ross, c. 1820, in Dorchester County, MD; later changed first name to Harriet; died of pneumonia March 10, 1913, in Auburn, NY; daughter of Benjamin Ross and Harriet Green (slaves); married John Tubman, a free black, c. 1844; married Nelson Davis, a Union Army soldier, 1869. Memberships: New England Anti-Slavery Society; National Federation of Afro-American Women, conference delegate, 1896; National Association of Colored Women; New England Women's Suffrage Association.


Early Life

Born to the name of Araminta Ross c. 1820 in Dorchester County, Maryland; she was one of their 11 children that were born into slavery. Both of her parents were enslaved full-blooded Africans and lived on the plantation of Edward Brodas. It is widely accepted that her parents were Ashanti, a West African warrior people. At some point in her childhood , Araminta ("Minty") Ross changed her name to Harriet.

Getting Involved

Tubman's is best known for her contributions to the loosely organized network called the Underground Railroad. This was organized by abolitionists, or "agents" who dedicated their lives and energies to bringing enslaved black people out of the southern United States into freedom in the northern United States and Canada. There have been reports that as many as 75,000 blacks were assisted by Underground Railroad "stations," which is the term that refers to the safe houses along the journey.

Tubman is best remembered for her arranging the escape of her parents in 1857. Biographer Earl Conrad later described the incident: "Harriet's abduction of her parents was an event in Underground annals. It was significant, not only because rarely did aged folks take to the Road, but because Harriet carried them off [in a 'patched together wagon'] with an audaciousness and an aplomb that represented complete mastery of the Railroad and perfect scorn of the white patrol. Her performance was that, at once, of the accomplished artist and the daring revolutionary." John Bell Robinson, a pro-slavery Philadelphian, however, described the same incident in his 1860 Pictures of Slavery and Freedom as "a diabolical act of wickedness and cruelty." He considered taking her elderly parents away "from ease and comfortable homes ... as cruel an act as ever was performed by a child towards parents." Acting alone, Tubman took her parents to live at her home in Auburn, New York, which she had purchased with the help of William Seward, an abolitionist.


"I had crossed the line of which I had so long been dreaming. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom,"

"Her tales of adventure are beyond anything in fiction and her ingenuity and generalship are extraordinary. I have known her for some time--the slaves call her Mose''

Lifes Changed

Tubman made at least fifteen trips from the North into southern slave states, leading over two hundred slaves into free northern states. By 1857 she had freed her entire family, including her aging parents.Tubman's self-appointed purpose led her to be closely involved with progressive social leaders in the North, first abolitionists, then feminists, and political and military leaders as she became well known as an abolitionist and a black leader. Her primary goal was to work for the freedom of slaves. Tubman's career led her to associate with people who shared her goal of the emancipation of blacks, regardless of the boundaries of gender, color, and socioeconomic status.Tubman became an effective and acknowledged leader in the abolitionist movement, which had a strong and effective organization in Philadelphia.

Tubman nursed the sick and wounded soldiers and taught newly-freed blacks strategies for self-sufficiency.

Quotes About Her

"We spent all our time at Harriet Tubman's. She is a wonderful woman--a real heroine" - Charlotte L. Forten

''Mrs. Tubman stood alone on the front of the rostrum, the audience, which not only filled every seat, but also much of the standing room in the aisles, rose as one person and greeted her with the waving of handerchiefs and clapping of hands. This was kept up for at least one minute, and Mrs. Tubman was much affected by the hearty reception given her'' - (A History of The Club Movement, 41).

Her Legacy

The Harriet Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Colored People was incorporated in 1903 with the assistance of the AMEZ church, and formally opened in 1908.Tubman devoted herself to caring for her parents, raising funds for schools for former slaves, collecting clothes for destitute children, and helping the poor and disabled. Tubman worked closely with black churches that had provided overnight shelter for runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad and raised money for Tubman's work as a conductor.When the Civil War broke out, Tubman served in the Union army as a scout, spy, and nurse.Tubman also worked as a scout for the Union army, traveling behind enemy lines to gather information and recruit slaves.In 2016, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced Tubman would be the new face of the U.S. $20 bill.


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