You might have heard of the name “Harriet Tubman, the conductor of the Underground Railroad used to free black slaves before the Civil War. This icon was a nurse, a Union spy, and women’s suffrage supporter. She got international recognition, and her legacy has been a source of inspiration to many people from every race. They record her story in several books and documentaries. Am sure you want me to tell you a little detail about this great woman.
Okay, let’s start from her childhood years. Harriet Tubman was born around 1820 in Dorchester County into a family of 10. Her parents Harriet (‘Rit’) Greene and Benjamin Rose initially named her Araminta Ross, but she changed her name to Harriet in honor of her mother. You must have heard of many kids who suffered emotional and physical scars. Yes, Harriet faced this form of abuse from the age of 5; they sent her out as a nursemaid where she was abused when the baby cried. That’s so pitiable. When she was 7, they sent her out as a field hand, but funny enough, she later said she loved the physical plantation work more than doing domestic chores.
Sometimes good deeds go bad. Harriet once experienced an incident at age 12 that affected her health-wise, even until death. On a fateful day, one of the field overseers was about to throw a heavyweight on a fugitive slave. Guess what Harriet did. She stepped between the slave and the overseer, and the weight struck her head so badly. Her skull broke, and they carried home her all bleeding. That’s pathetic.
That was not the end of the painful episode. That heroic act by Harriet made her suffer from constant headaches and narcolepsy for the rest of her life. She was always sleeping at random and having vivid dreams and hallucinations. This infirmity made slave buyers and renters to avoid her. Funny enough, she claimed that it wasn’t a hallucination, but religious visions. Can you image? Thou, she was a good Christian.
Now let’s talk about how Harriet escaped from slavery. They set Harriet’s father free in 1840 but they held her mum Rit in bondage by her new owner even when the former master had willed her freedom. This kept Rit and Harriet in bondage for so long.
You may wonder if Harriet ever got married. Yes, she got married around 1844 to John Tubman, a free black man. That was when she changed her name from Ross to Tubman. Unfortunately, the marriage wasn’t good at all. It was terrible John threatened to sell Harriet and her two brothers. This was what provoked Harriet to plan an escape.
How did she achieve this? On September 17, 1849, Harriet and her two brothers, Harry and Ben escaped their Maryland plantation but unfortunately the brothers went back. But Harriet persisted and got freedom by traveling 90 miles north to Pennsylvania through the Underground Railroad.
Now let me tell you about her heart of Gold. Despite her freedom, she still wanted to go back to free her friends and loved ones. Did she achieve this? Yes! How? She traveled back to the South and led her niece’s family to Philadelphia through the Underground Railroad. Wow, what a brave woman.
Now, something affected Harriet’s freedom plan. The Fugitive Slave Act passed in 1850. This act allowed free slaves in the north to be captured and enslaved. Harriet job became more laborious, but she could lead slaves further north to Canada, this time only at night. She got a gun for protection, and she even drugged babies to make them quiet.
Now, in 10 years, Harriet established her Underground Railroad. She didn’t achieve this alone, anyway. She befriended and got support from other abolitionists like Frederick Douglass, Martha Coffin Wright, and Thomas Garrett. They estimated it that Harriet emancipated 300 slaves through her Railroad. Further, she was able to lead her elderly parents to freedom, and she directed many others the way to escape on their own. Wow. So awesome!
What about the Civil war that broke out in 1861? Harriet played a significant role too. She worked as a nurse, laundress, cook and assisted fugitive slaves at Fort Monroe. Oh, nurse? Yeah, she knew herbal medicines, and she used that to treat soldiers and escaped slaves.
Not only that, Harriet became a head of a scouting network for the Union Army in 1863. Amazing! Don’t you think?
Harriet was only 5 feet tall, but acted gallantly and supplied the intelligence report to the Union commanders. She also helped to liberate slaves to form black Union Regiments. After about three decades, the government awarded her financially for her immense contribution to the military.
Now, what happened after the Civil war? She settled with family and friends in New York and got married to Nelson Davis in 1869. She adopted a child and opened her door to anyone in need. In 1896, she purchased land and opened the “Harriet Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Colored people.” She continued to suffer plague from her head injury, and sadly, Pneumonia took Harriet’s life in 1913. What a great loss.
Don’t you think she deserves much honor for her legacy? A lot of schools and museums bore her name already, and they revisit her story in movies, books, and documentaries. Harriet even had a World War II Liberty ship named after her, the “SS Harriet Tubman.” And do you know what? The United States Treasury board, in 2016, promised to replace the Andrew Jackson image on the twenty-dollar bill for Harriet’s picture.
I believe you also want to celebrate this icon, Harriet Tubman. You can Join the Black History Month celebration this February and show Harriet your respect. Bye!