BLACK HISTORY: BIOGRAPHIES
Harriet (Ross) Tubman
in 1820 in Dorchester County, Maryland, Harriet Tubman had the hard childhood
of a slave: much work, little schooling, and severe punishment. In 1848,
she escaped, leaving behind her husband John Tubman, who threatened to report
her to their master.
As a free woman, she began to devise practical ways
of helping other slaves escape. Over the following 10 years she made about
20 trips from the North into the South and rescued more than three hundred
slaves. Her reputation spread rapidly, and she won the admiration of leading
abolitionists (some of whom sheltered her passengers). Eventually a reward
of $40,000 was posted for her capture.
Tubman met and aided John Brown in recruiting soldiers for his raid on
Harpers Ferry. Brown referred to her as "General Tubman". One
of her major disappointments was the failure of the raid, and she is said
to have regarded Brown as the true emancipator of her people, not Lincoln.
In 1860 she began to canvass the nation, appearing at anti-slavery meetings
and speaking on women's rights.
Shortly before the outbreak of the Civil
War, she was forced to leave for Canada, but she returned to the United States
and served the Union as a nurse, soldier, and spy; she was particularly
valuable to the army as a scout because of the knowledge of the terrain
she had gained as a conductor on the Underground Railroad.
Tubman's biography (from which she received the proceeds) was written by
Sarah Bradford in 1868. Tubman's husband, John, died two years after the
end of the war, and in 1869 she married the war veteran Nelson Davis. Despite
receiving many honors and tributes (including a medal from Queen Victoria),
she spent her last days in poverty, not receiving a pension until 30 years
after the Civil War. With the $20 dollars a month that she finally received,
she helped to found a home for the aged and needy, which was later renamed
the Harriet Tubman Home. She died in Auburn, New York.
Source: The African American Almanac, 7th ed., Gale, 1997.
Reprinted by permission of The
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