Harriet Tubman became famous as a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad during the 1850s. That means that she helped people find their way North to freedom.
She was born into slavery in Maryland. She was beaten by her master and worked as a field hand.
In 1849 Tubman fled Maryland, leaving behind her family (husband, parents, sisters, and brothers). She was known for saying, "Mah people mus' go free." She returned to the South at least nineteen times to lead her family and probably about 300 other slaves to freedom. Just because you got to the free North, it didn't mean that you couldn't be taken back. In fact, you were a criminal for running away! She was able to stay out of the hands of bounty hunters seeking a reward for her capture. (At one time her capture was worth $40,000!) She never lost a fugitive on the Underground Railroad.
She had great faith in God - "I always tole God, I'm gwine to hole stiddy on to you, an' you've got to see me trou [through]."
Tubman collaborated with John Brown in 1858 in planning his raid on Harpers Ferry. She met with this famous white, radical Abolitionist (those were people who believed in abolishing - or getting rid of- slavery) John Brown in Canada where she told him all she knew of the Underground Railroad in the East. She promised to get help from fugitives in the region. He wanted her to accompany him on the raid. Tubman planned to, but was ill at the time and could not.
Tubman's resistance to slavery did not end with the start of the Civil War. She worked as a nurse, scout, and spy for the Union Army. With her bandanna on her head, she worked as a scout and spy under the command of Col. James Montgomery of the Second Carolina Volunteers. She collected information, on the location of cotton warehouses, ammunition , and slaves waiting to be freed. Tubman was paid only two hundred dollars over a three-year period and had to support herself by selling pies, gingerbread, and root beer.
After the war, she went to New York, and continued to help blacks make new lives in freedom. She cared for her parents and other needy people and turned her home into a home for old and homeless Negroes. Lack of money was a big problem, and she financed the home by selling copies of her biography and giving speeches.
Her most famous speech was at the organizing meeting of the National Association of Colored Women in 1896 in Washington, D.C. Harriet Tubman was the oldest member present and helped connect the old and new black women.
FOR MORE INFORMATION WE SUGGEST:
"Tubman, Harriet" , The Reader's Companion to American History, Tiffany Patterson , 1991, Houghton Mifflin Co. Electronic version licensed from and portions © 1995 INSO Corporation. All rights reserved.
Sarah Bradford, Harriet: The Moses of Her People