Harriet Tubman

Civil Rights Activist and Nurse

who?

Harriet Tubman was an African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the American Civil War. Being born into slavery, Harriet Tubman escaped and made more than thirteen missions to rescue more than 70 slaves using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.
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life as a slave

Life as a slave was difficult. Harriet first lived in a one-room cabin with her family that included eleven children. When she was only six years old, she was loaned out to another family where she helped take care of a baby. She was sometimes beaten and all she got to eat was table scraps. Later Harriet worked a number of jobs on the plantation such as plowing fields and loading produce into wagons. She became strong doing manual labor that included hauling logs and driving oxen. At the age of thirteen Harriet received a horrible head injury. It happened when she was visiting the 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 blackouts for the rest of her life.

the underground railroad

During this time there were states in the northern United States where slavery was outlawed. Slaves would try to escape to the north using the Underground Railroad. This wasn't a real railroad. It was a number of safe homes (called stations) that 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 onto trains until they finally reached the north and freedom.

In 1849 Harriet decided to escape. She would use the Underground Railroad. After a long and scary trip she made it to Pennsylvania and was finally free.

Using the Underground Railroad, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed. This meant that slaves could be taken from free states and returned to their owners. In order to be free, slaves now had to escape to Canada. Harriet wanted to help others, including her family, to safety in Canada. She joined the Underground Railroad as a conductor. Harriet became famous as an Underground Railroad conductor. She led nineteen different escapes from the south and helped around 300 slaves to escape. She became known as "Moses" because, like the Moses in the Bible, she led her people to freedom. Harriet was truly brave. She risked her life and freedom to help others. She also helped her family, including her mother and father, to escape. She was never caught and never lost a slave.

the civil war

Harriet's bravery and service did not end with the Underground Railroad, she also helped during the Civil War. She helped to nurse injured soldiers, served as a spy for the north, and even helped on a military campaign that led to the rescue of over 750 slaves. After the Civil War, Harriet lived in New York with her family. She helped poor and sick people. She also spoke out on equal rights for blacks and women. Harriet Tubman was really a fighter and spoke out for all the rights that she believed in.