By: Lauren Doubrava
"I freed one thousand slaves. I could have freed one thousand more if
only I knew they were slaves," said Harriet Tubman after a lifetime spent
freeing slaves. Harriet Tubman was a slave who escaped and went to free
the other slaves using the Underground Railroad she constructed. Harriet
was always mistreated and neglected. Here is her story of how all do that
came to be.
Harriet Tubman was born in slavery to her mom and dad along with two brothers. She was
born in 1819, Dorchester county, Maryland in slavery. Her name that she was born with was
Ariminta Harriet Ross. Ariminta was exposed to whipping. Every time
she did something wrong or when she didn't listen to her master she
was whipped. When Ariminta was only six years old she had to start
work. At 8 years old she was shipped back and forth from homes,
because she always did something wrong. When she reached twelve
years of age she was defending a slave that was trying to escape, her
master was displeased with her so he threw a 2 pound weight at her
head. Throughout her life she suffered head pains. She was never the same since.
In 1844, Ariminta Ross got married to John Tubman. He was a freed save. They
had no children. Harriet Tubman was the name Ariminta changed to. She renamed
herself after her mother.
Harriet wanted to be free as a honey bee, just like her spouse, so at night she
escaped with her two brothers. She had to leave her husband behind because he
wasn't supportive of her. A reward was offered for the three escaped slaves. Soon
the two brothers went back home, they would rather be in slavery than die trying to
escape. But Harriet kept going, she didn't care, she wanted to be free. The brave girl
never stopped believing as long as Christ was watching over her.
In 1849, Harriet received a piece of paper from an abolitionist while she was
escaping. It was for the ﬁrst house on the escape route. She had to be shipped to
other houses in a wagon covered with hay. The people she stayed with were always
willing to help her. What she was using to travel was the Underground Railroad.
The Underground Railroad took her to Philadelphia. Here, Harriet got a job where she saved
her pay/money to help free slaves. She also met William Still. William Still was one of the
Underground Railroad's busiest "station masters." He helped slaves escape with a safe route.
In September 1850, Harriet was made an ofﬁcial "conductor" of the UGRR. (Under
Ground Rail Road).This honor meant that she knew all the routes to free
territory. She had to take an oath of silence so the secret of the Underground
Railroad, would be kept secret. She also made a second trip to the South to
rescue her brother James and other friends. Her brother and friends were
already in the process of running away so Harriet brought them across a river
and to the home of Thomas Garret. Thomas Garret was the most famous
Underground "Stationmaster" in history.
Around this time the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act was passed. It stated that it was illegal for any
citizen to assist an escaped slave. They demanded that if an
escaped slave was sighted, he or she should be apprehended and
turned in so they would be taken back to the "rightful" owner
down south. Any United States Marshall who refused to return a
runaway slave would pay a hefty penalty of $1,000. Since that
law was passed, the Underground Railroad had to tighten
security. It created a code to make things more secret. It also sent
the escaping slaves into Canada instead of the "North" of the
Harriet's third trip was in September 1851. She went to get her husband,
John, but he had remarried and did not want to leave. So she went back up
North. Harriet went to Garret's house and found there were more runaways
(which were referred to as passengers) to rescue than Harriet expected. That did
not stop the couragous girl though. She and her eleven passengers started the
journey to Canada. To get into Canada, they had to cross over Niagara Falls on
a handmade suspension bridge which would take them into the city of St.
Catherine, Ontario in Canada. St. Catherines remained her base of operations
until 1857. While there she worked at various activities to save her ﬁnance for
her activities as a Conductor on the UGRR. She attended the Salem Chapel
BME Church on Geneva Street.
In the winter of 1852, Tubman was ready to return to the U.S. to help free more slaves. In
the spring, she worked in Cape May and saved enough money to go to Maryland.
By now, Tubman had led so many people from the South - the slave's called this
the "land of Egypt" - to freedom. Harriet became known as "Moses." Tubman
made eleven trips from Maryland to Canada in 1852-1857.
Her most famous trip concerned a passenger who panicked and wanted to turn back.
Tubman was afraid if he left he would be tortured and would tell all he knew about the Railroad.
The unwilling passenger changed his mind when Tubman pointed a gun at his head and said
"dead folks tell no tales."
The spring of 1857 was the time when Harriet set out on her most daring rescue. She had
to free her elderly father, Ben Ross. Tubman bought a train ticket for herself and traveled in
broad daylight which was dangerous considering the bounty for her head. When she reached
Caroline County, she bought a horse and some miscellaneous (misc) parts to make a buggy. She
took this and her father and mother to Thomas Garrett who arranged for their passage to go to
In Canada, she met the famous abolitionist John Brown, who had heard
much about Harriet. When he came to St. Catherine, he asked J.W. Loguen
to introduce them. When Brown met Tubman, he was overwhelmed by her
intelligence and bearing, and said "General Tubman, General Tubman,
General Tubman." From then on he would refer to her by this name. Brown
called Harriet, "one of the best and bravest persons on this continent." She
worked closely with Brown, and reportedly missed the raid on Harper's
Ferry only because of illness.
In 1860 in Troy, New York, in which she set her mind to setting free a fugitive who had been
captured and was being held at the ofﬁce of the United States Commisioner. The slave, a man
named Charles Nalle, did escape thanks to Tubman's efforts. He later bought his freedom from
his master, a man who also happend to be his younger, half-brother.
Harriet Tubman's career in the Railroad was ending by December 1860. She made her last
rescue trip to Maryland, bringing seven people to Canada. In the ten years she worked as a
"conductor" on the Railroad, Harriet managed to rescue over 300 people. She had made 19 trips
and never lost a passenger on the way. For Tubman's safety, her friends took her to Canada.
Tubman returned to the U.S. from living in Canada in 1861. The Civil War had begun and
was asking for all men as soldiers and any women who wanted to
join as cooks and nurses. Tubman went into the Union army as a
"contraband" nurse in a hospital in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Contrabands were blacks who the Union army helped to
escape from the Southern compounds. Often they were half
starved and sick from exposure. Harriet nursed the sick and
wounded back to health but her work did not stop there. She also
tried to ﬁnd them work. When the army sent her to another
hospital in Florida, she found white soldiers and contrabands
"dying off like sheep". Harriet treated her patients with medicine from roots and miraculously
never caught any of the deadly diseases the wounded soldiers would carry.
During the summer of 1863, Tubman worked with Colonel James Montgomery as
a scout. She put together a group of spies who kept Montgomery informed about
slaves who might want to join the Union army. After she and her scouts had done the
groundwork, she helped Montgomery organize the Combahee River Raid. The
purpose of the raid was to harass whites and rescue freed slaves. They were successful
in gathering almost 500 slaves. Just about all the freed slaves joined the army.
After the war, Harriet returned home to Auburn. In 1869, she
married Nelson Davis and together they shared a calm, peaceful 19 year
marriage until he died.
Tubman returned to Auburn, New York after the war and purchased
Seward's seven-acre plot in 1873 with $1,200 donated by Sarah Bradford from sale proceeds of
her book. The Tubman-Davis brick home remains today on that property.
Before she died on March 10, 1913, she gave her home for the elderly to the Methodist
Episcopal Zion Church. Tubman was buried with military rites in Fort Hill
Cemetery, a short drive from the home. A year after her death, Auburn
declared a one-day memorial to its anti-slavery hero. Residents of the city
that day unveiled the Harriet Tubman Plaque, which remains on display
at the entrance of the Cayuga County Court House. She has since
received man honors, including the naming of the Liberty Ship Harriet
Tubman, christened in 1944 by Eleanor Roosevelt. On June 14, 1914 a
large bronze plaque was placed at the Cayuga County Courthouse, and a
civic holiday declared in her honor. Freedom Park, a tribute to the
memory of Harriet Tubman, opened in the summer of 1994 at 17 North
Street in Auburn.
In 1995, Harriet Tubman was honored by the federal government with a commemorative
postage stamp bearing her name and likeness.
All because of Harriet Tubman slavery has ended in the United States. If Harriet hadn't
done all of the things she has the society wouldn't be like it is now. Just because a Hero didn't
affect you directly doesn't mean they aren't a hero. The last words she uttered were " I go to
prepare a place for you."