Harriet Tubman was an important African American who ran away from slavery and guided runaway slaves to the north for years. During the Civil War she served as a scout, spy, and nurse for the United States Army. After that, she worked for the rights of blacks and women.
Harriet Tubman was really named Araminta Ross, but she later adopted her mother’s first name. She was one of eleven children of Harriet Greene and Benjamin Ross. She was five when she worked on a plantation in Dorchester County, Maryland. She was first a maid, and a children’s nurse before she started working as a field hand when she was twelve. While she was thirteen, her master hit her head with a heavy weight. The hit put permanent neurological damage (she couldn’t learn as well as before), and she passed out without warning throughout the rest of her life.
In 1844 she got permission from her owner to marry a free black man, John Tubman. For the next five years Harriet Tubman lived in a state with only a little slavery. She remained a slave, but her master allowed her to live with her husband. But the death of her master three years after she was married made Tubman’s status uncertain. There were rumors going around the slave houses that the slaves would be sold to settle the estate. Tubman ran away to the north and became a free person. In 1849 he moved to Pennsylvania, but came back to Maryland after about two years hoping that her husband would come along with her. But when she came back, her husband, John Tubman, had remarried. Harried did not remarry again until John Tubman died.
She decided to become a conductor on the infamous Underground Railroad, where people from the south would runaway to freedom in the north. She rescued her sister, her nieces, brother, and her parents.
For about ten years, she made an estimated 19 trips into the slave states and helped about 300 slaves to the north. Tubman was in great danged while she was a conductor of the railroad, because southerners offered a huge reward for her capture. Tubman used great disguises, posing as old men and old women, to avoid suspicion when traveling in slave states. She carried sleeping powder to stop babies from crying and always had a gun just for protection.
During the Civil War, which began in 1861, Tubman served as a nurse, scout, and spy for the Union Army in South Carolina. She helped cook and prepare food for the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, which was made up of all black soldiers and was better known as the Glory Brigade. She later received an award for her efforts, but no pay.
Tubman spent years after the war in the north, where she continued to work on black rights, and she raised funds to assist former slaves with food, shelter, and education. She was not able to read or write, but in 1869 her friend Sarah Bradford helped her out with a biography, so that her achiecements could be an inspiration to others.
In 1974, about 60 years after Tubman’s death, the Department of the Interior designated her home in Auburn as a national historic landmark.