Harriet Tubman was born into slavery and never dreamed of running away from her family until her owner died, increasing the possibility of her being sold. After running away to the free state of Pennsylvania, Tubman realized she could not live a life of freedom while her family and friends were still slaves. Tubman made it her mission to lead slaves to freedom until the Civil War erupted. During the war, she helped the Union solders navigate the Southern States, becoming the first woman to lead an armed expedition during war . Even after slaves became free, Tubman continued to help others until she became too ill to do so.
Araminta Harriet Ross was born around 1822 in Maryland. Like many other slaves, Harriet was a victim of physical violence. When Tubman was a teen running errands at the market, she encountered a slave who had left the fields without permission. When the slave’s overseer demanded Harriet help him restrain the slave, she refused; the overseer then threw a two-pound weight that struck her in the head. Harriet would have severe headaches and seizures for the rest of her life. Years later, Harriet married a free black man named John Tubman and changed her name to Harriet Tubman. Though her husband was saving up to buy her freedom, Harriet’s owner died and she feared she would be sold and be separated from her family due to her frequent illnesses. Tubman escaped in 1849 with her two brothers, but her brothers turned back after seeing their reward notice in the newspaper.Tubman had to continue on her own to Pennsylvania.
After reaching Pennsylvania, Tubman realized she had to save her friends and family from slavery. In December 1850, she heard her niece and niece’s children were going to be sold. Harriet managed to save her niece’s entire family. When she returned to Maryland to see her husband, she found out he was happily remarried. Tubman kept her head up and returned to work, using the Underground Railroad to save over 70 slaves, including her siblings and parents. After the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 made it a crime to help slaves avoid capture, Tubman had to re-route the Underground Railroad to Canada. In December 1851, Tubman led a group of 11 fugitives to Canada; one of her stops was Frederick Douglass’ house. Though locals in Maryland knew someone was responsible for all 70 missing slaves, no one suspected the petite disabled slave who ran away years ago. Years later, Tubman stated “I was conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say – I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.” Her frequent trips earned her the nickname Black Moses for leading slaves to freedom.
When the Civil War broke out Tubman acted as a cook and a nurse to the Union Army before being recruited as a spy due to her knowledge of the land. Tubman became the first American woman to lead an armed expedition in the war when she guided the Combahee River Raid. The raid liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina. When she was not helping the Union Army, she returned home to Auburn, New York to take care of her aging parents. After the Civil War ended, Tubman returned home on a train. After refusing to move into the smoking car, the conductor broke her arm while fellow passengers cursed her. Tubman had risked her life helping the North win the war, yet she was still treated as an inferior being. She did not receive a Civil War pension until 1899.
In 1869, Tubman married Civil War veteran Nelson Davis and the couple adopted a baby girl name Gertie. Though slavery was over, Tubman knew she still had work to do. Tubman began attending women suffrage meetings and traveled to speak out in favor of women’s voting rights. Tubman even met Susan B. Anthony. After years of working for equality, Tubman was admitted to the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged due to her head injuries. Surrounded by friends and family, she died of pneumonia in 1913.
Harriet Tubman risked her life to save her friends, family, and strangers even though she was a black woman with a disability. Tubman worked without pay cooking and taking care of the Union soldiers because she knew the North needed to win to free all of the slaves. And when she was not taking care of the soldiers, she was back at home taking care of her parents. Though Tubman could have had an easy life in Philadelphia, she spent her whole life helping others even when she didn’t have much money. Tubman shows how anyone, no matter gender, color, disability, or level of education can become a hero.