Arminta Harriet Ross was born around 1820 in Dorchester County, Maryland. Her parents, Harriet Green and Ben Ross, were enslaved by Mary Pattison Brodess and Anthony Thompson, who treated their slaves as less than human. Early on in Harriet’s life, she endured countless acts of violence upon her and her family by the Thompson’s. She witnessed her mother stand up against the separation of her family as a child which left a lasting mark on her. One day while shopping for her family at a local store, Tubman encountered a man escaping enslavement. Pursuing the man were his owners, and when they caught up with him they demanded that Tubman help to restrain him. When she resisted she was hit in the head with a two pound weight by one of the men. The incident caused a head injury resulting in Harriet having seizures, severe headaches, and narcolepsy. She also experienced dream like states which she viewed as signs delivered to her from God. These dream like states helped Tubman delve deeper into religion.
In 1844 Tubman married a free black man named John Tubman and changed her name to Harriet Tubman. It is said that the name change was to honor her mother. In 1849 Harriet, along with her brothers Ben and Harry, escaped from slavery fearing that her family would be sold away. They were missing for two weeks before a runaway notice was posted about their escape. Tubman’s brothers suddenly had second thoughts and returned to their plantation forcing Tubman to return with them. Tubman was determined to be free so she escaped again, this time she was alone. She fled to Philadelphia using the Underground Railroad and help from the Quakers as she made the 90 mile trip.
After finding freedom herself, Tubman was compelled to return to her family and later helped grant them freedom. After freeing her immediate family she returned to Maryland to help free other family members and enslaved blacks. As she continued to make trips to free more people, she gained more confidence in her abilities to help free her people. Her legend was growing more and more with each successful trip she made, and she even gained the name “Moses” for her awesome efforts. Tubman lead around 60 people to freedom, but her husband refused to leave with her. He decided to stay in Maryland because he remarried. The Fugitive Slave Law was passed in 1850 which allowed slavers to capture people escaping slavery in the North and return them to slavery making the northern states of America no longer safe for those escaping slavery. Tubman and her band were able to find freedom in Canada. Tubman and ten other men consulted with Frederick Douglas on several occasions, trading ideas to further help free blacks from slavery.
In 1858, Tubman met John Brown, an abolitionist who viewed violence as a way to end slavery. Brown viewed Tubman as a “general” in the fight against slavery. Tubman was also active in the Civil War as a nurse and a cook. She helped to lead the Combahee River Raid, which freed over 700 enslaved people in South Carolina. Tubman eventually bought land in Auburn, New York for her family to settle on until her death. She passed in 1913, but left a legacy that will live forever. Mrs. Tubman risked her life and freedom to save her people from the inhumane intuition of slavery. She is an American hero in the truest sense. She embodies humanity, leadership and courage. Mrs. Harriet Tubman, we stand on your shoulders.
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