Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman was perhaps the most well-known of all Underground Railroad’s “conductors.” Over a period of 10 year she made 19 trips into the South and escorted over 300 slaves to freedom and never lost a single passenger.

Tubman was born a slave in Maryland around 1820. At age five or six, she began to work as a house servant. While she was still in her early teens, she suffered an injury that would follow her for the rest of her life. Standing up for someone else, Tubman blocked a doorway to protect another field hand from an angry overseer, who picked up and threw a two-pound weight striking Tubman on the head. She never fully recovered from the blow.

In 1849, Tubman resolved to run away as she and other slaves feared they would be sold. She followed the North Star by night, making her way to Pennsylvania and soon Philadelphia, where she found work and saved her money. The following year, she returned to Maryland and escorted her sister and her sister’s two children to freedom. She went to the south to rescue her brother and two other men. On her third return to get her husband, she found that he had another wife and more slaves needed freedom and she helped them to the North.

She became friends with the abolitionists of the day and took part in antislavery meetings. During the civil war, Harriet worked for the Union as a cook, a nurse and even a spy.

Of the famed heroine, who became known as "Moses or General Tubman," Frederick Douglass said, "Excepting John Brown -- of sacred memory -- I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people.

After the war, she settled in Auburn, New York, where she would spend the rest of her life.

Source: Harriet Tubman
Copyright © 1998, 1999 WGBH Educational Foundation

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