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Harriet Tubman

Information and Articles About Harriet Tubman, a famous women In history

Harriet Tubman Facts

Born

1819 or 1820, near Bucktown, Dorchester County, Maryland

Died

March 10, 1913, Auburn, New York

Accomplishments

Civil War Nurse
Abolitionist
Advocate of Women’s Suffrage Movement
Civil Rights activist
Prominent Figure in The Underground Railroad
First woman in America to conduct an armed military raid

Harriet Tubman Articles

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Harriet Tubman summary: Harriet Tubman is often called the Moses of her people for leading so many of them out of bondage to freedom. She was an abolitionist, an integral part of the Underground Railroad, a humanitarian, and a Union nurse and spy during the American Civil War.

Araminta Ross was born in the winter of 1819 or 1820 to Benjamin and Harriet (Greene) Ross, who were slaves on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Araminta or "Minty" was born into a large family of slaves with origins in Africa—her grandparents may have been from the Ashanti tribe in what is now Ghana. The exact date of her birth is unknown because she was a slave and owners did not often record their slave’s birthdates. Before she reached adulthood, Araminta changed her first name to Harriet, after her mother.

Although some of her siblings were illegally sold to out of state buyers, at five or six years old, Harriet was loaned out to another plantation, where she was put to work checking muskrat traps in rivers. She became too sick to work and was returned, malnourished and suffering from exposure to cold. After she recovered, she was lent out again to another plantation where she worked as a nursemaid to the planter’s child.

By her early teens, she was working as a field hand, plowing and hauling wood. During this time, she defended a fellow field hand who had tried to run away. Harriet came between the angry overseer and the field hand. The overseer threw a two-pound weight at the field hand, but it fell short and hit Harriet in the head—she had life-long headaches, seizures, and narcolepsey as a result.

Around 1844, Harriet asked for and received permission from her owners to marry and live with John Tubman, a freeman, and took his last name, but she was required to continue working for her owner. In 1849, Harriet and two of her brothers ran away after their master died, afraid that they would be sold. Her brothers had second thoughts, and the group returned. Not long after, Harriet left on her own, on foot in the middle of the night, using a part of the Underground Railroad that was already in place in eastern Maryland. She traveled only at night, using the North Star and instructions from helpers in the Underground Railroad to guide her about 90 miles to Pennsylvania.

She went to Philadelphia, worked odd jobs, and began to make plans for a return to Maryland to help her family—and eventually anyone who would take the risk of flight—to freedom. She became involved in abolitionist organizations, including the Underground Railroad, which provided safe havens and guidance for escaping slaves.

In 1850 she returned to Maryland and brought her niece’s family to freedom. In 1851, she returned for one of her brothers and two other men. During her third trip, she planned to convince her husband to come north, but discovered he had taken another wife, a freewoman. Instead, she found other slaves seeking freedom and guided them to freedom. Emboldened by each trip, which were all successful, Harriet continued her slave-freeing trips into Maryland. She became adept at avoiding capture and she carried a long rifle with her—both for protection and as a means of ensuring her escapees would not lose their nerve. She warned them that if they changed their mind and surrendered or returned to their owners, she would shoot them.

Following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, Harriet left Philadelphia and moved to St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, where she brought many of the slaves she freed. Throughout the 1850s, she made numerous trips back into Maryland to guide slaves to freedom, including three of her other brothers in 1853 and her parents in 1857. By the late 1850s, she was able to buy a small farm for her parents in Auburn, New York, from New York Senator William H. Seward, one of her advocates and supporters. The following year, she moved from St. Catharines to the house in Auburn as well, using it as her base when she wasn’t traveling or speaking.

In her 12 years of freedom before the American Civil War began, Harriet helped make the Underground Railroad one of the most important aspects of abolitionism and became one of the most active figures in the movement. John Brown, the militant abolitionist she sometimes worked with, called her General Tubman for her bravery. In 1858, she helped Brown raise funds for a raid on the United States Armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), after which he planned to arm the slaves of the town and instigate a rebellion, although she did not participate in the ill-fated 1859 raid.

During the Civil War, Harriet served with the Union Army, doing whatever she could to help with the war and to help the fugitive slaves that arrived at Union army camps, cooking meals and nursing soldiers and fugitives alike. In 1862 she went with a group of missionary teachers to Union-occupied Beaufort, South Carolina, to help a group of Sea Island slaves transition to freedom. She was also a scout and a spy behind Confederate lines. In 1863, she became the first woman in America to command an armed military raid. She led Colonel James Montgomery and his 2nd South Carolina regiment, composed of freed black men, up the Combahee River in South Carolina’s southern Low Country. They sought Confederate outposts and destroyed stockpiles of cotton, food, and weapons, and liberated over 700 slaves.

At the end of the war, Harriet returned to Auburn and continued to be a community activist and humanitarian, and an active member of the suffrage movement. She helped shelter the poor and the elderly on the farm in Auburn though she herself struggled financially.

In 1867, her estranged husband, John, was killed in Maryland by Robert Vincent, a white man with whom he had quarreled earlier that day. Two years later, she remarried, this time to Civil War veteran Nelson Davis, whom she had taken in at the end of the war. In 1874, they adopted a daughter, Gertie.

Beginning in the late 1860s, she sought compensation from the federal government for her work during the war. Her request was rejected although her petition was supported by many prominent people, including now-Secretary of State William H. Seward.

Her financial difficulties continued. Her friends and her allies from the abolitionist movement raised funds to help her. Local children’s author Sarah H. Bradford wrote an authorized biography called Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, published in 1869, and gave the money from sales of the book to Harriet. The book remains a valuable source of information about Harriet’s life. Bradford wrote another book in 1886, Harriet, the Moses of her People, and there were other fundraisers through the years to help Harriet.

In 1895, Congress awarded her a pension of $8 monthly as the widow of a Union solider— Nelson had died in 1888—and a lump sum of $500 retroactive compensation for the five years in which her pension claim had been pending. In 1897, a bill was introduced to provide her with an additional $25 a month in recognition of her services as a Union army nurse. Nearly two years later Congress agreed upon a small, life-long pension of $12 a month for her services as a wartime nurse—the standard amount for such pensions—in addition to her widow’s pension, and President William McKinley signed the bill into law.

At the turn of the century, Harriet became involved with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Auburn. In 1903, she donated some of her land to the church on the condition that it be used for a home for the "aged and indigent colored people." The community in Auburn funded the construction of the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, which opened in 1908. By 1911, frail and indigent herself, she was admitted to the home, where she died in 1913. She was buried at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn with military honors. She continues to be an enduring symbol of self-sacrifice, persistence, patriotism, and humanitarianism.


 

Articles Featuring Harriet Tubman From History Net Magazines

Mothers of the Lost CauseAn army of determined Southern women buried the dead but kept the mythic Confederate legacy of the Lost Cause alive
They’re Called Killing Grounds for a Reason: February/March 2009A 10-year study of the geomorphology of Civil War battlefields reveal connection between geological features and casualties.
Shot by Cupid’s Bow – Fanny and John Brown GordonConfederate General John Brown Gordon and his wife Fanny shared a loyal and passionate marriage for nearly 50 years. She spent much of the Civil War nursing him as he recovered from wounds and illness.
The 9 Lives of General John Brown GordonIndestructible Confederate general John B. Gordon survived multiple wounds and serious illnesses during the Civil War. From First Manassas to Appomattox, he proved nothing could keep a good man down.
Death and Civil War America: Interview with Drew Gilpin FaustDrew Gilpin Faust discusses her book, "This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War," a thoughtful study of the impact of the war's massive death toll on society and government.
Inside Andersonville: An Eyewitness Account of the Civil War’s Most Infamous PrisonSergeant Clark N. Thorp of the 19th U.S. Infantry was captured at the 1863 Battle of Chickamauga. The solider from Sylvania, Ohio, later wrote this memoir of his 19 months as a prisoner at Andersonville.
Battle of Antietam: Union Surgeons and Civilian Volunteers Help the WoundedUnion surgeons and civilian volunteers struggled to cope with thousands of Antietam wounded with makeshift hospitals in barns and barnyards, houses and churches, haystacks, pastures and flimsy tents around Sharpsburg, Maryland.
Fighting and Dying for the Colors at GettysburgNearly two months after the battle of Gettysburg 24-year-old Isaac Dunsten of the 105th Pennsylvania Infantry lay on officers’ row at Camp Letterman, the large tent hospital established just east of the town. On July 2, 1863, the second day of the battle, a bullet had shattered the lieutenant’s right thigh. A splint was applied …
Boston Combusts: The Fugitive Slave Case of Anthony BurnsAn eruption in the nation's abolitionist capital nearly seven years before Fort Sumter foreshadowed the irreconcilable divide between North and South and the fracture to come.

By Chuck Leddy

Bartholomew Gosnold: The Man Who Was Responsible for England’s Settling the New WorldThe vision, enthusiasm and organization of Bartholomew Gosnold, of Otley, Suffolk, resulted in the Virginia Company and the settlement of Jamestown now 400 years ago.
America’s Civil War: Why the Irish Fought for the UnionThe Irish experience in the Civil War has probably received more attention — and celebration — than that of any other ethnic group. Mention of the Irish commonly conjures up images of the Irish Brigade’s doomed charge at Fredericksburg, of Father William Corby granting absolution before Gettysburg, or possibly the mourning wolfhound at the base …
Battle of Gettysburg FinaleGrievously wounded in body and spirit, the Army of Northern Virginia limped painfully away from Gettysburg while Union commander George Gordon Meade followed slowly -- too slowly, thought Abraham Lincoln.
British Textiles Clothe the WorldHow did Britain come to dominate the global production of cloth?

By Claire Hopley

Champ Ferguson: An American Civil War Rebel GuerrillaWhen Rebel guerrilla Champ Ferguson showed up at your house, you could be sure of one thing: you were about to die.
Silas Soule: Massachusetts AbolitionistDedicated Massachusetts abolitionist Silas Soule ironically gave his life for the red man, not the black.
America’s Civil War: Major General John Pope’s Narrow Escape at Clark’s MountainWhile Robert E. Lee's entire army massed behind Clark's Mountain to attack the Union Army of Virginia, a daring Yankee spy swam the Rapidan River to warn Maj. Gen. John Pope of the imminent danger. It was, said one military historian, 'the timeliest single product of espionage' in the entire war.
Austro-Sardinian WarCombining such technical innovations as railroads and rifled firearms with Napoleonic-era tactics, French Emperor Napoleon III's short but bloody bid for glory even left the French emperor sickened, but it laid the foundation for a united Italy--and the International Red Cross.
Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman: War’s Kindred SpiritsKindred spirits Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman prepared themselves for another bloody year of war as 1863 dawned.
Frederick Stowe: In the Shadow of Uncle Tom’s CabinThe fame of novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe followed her son throughout the Civil War.
‘The Birth of a Nation': When Hollywood Glorified the KKKNinety years after its first screening and 100 years after the publication of the novel that inspired it, D.W. Griffith's motion picture continues to be lauded for its cinematographic excellence and vilified for its racist content. The film came from Griffith's personal vision, and as such it reflected the strengths and weaknesses of the man himself.
America’s Civil War: Guerrilla Leader William Clarke Quantrill’s Last Raid in KentuckyWhen Confederate fortunes plummeted in Missouri, fearsome guerrilla leader William Clarke Quantrill and his band of hardened killers headed east to terrorize Union soldiers and civilians in Kentucky. It would be Quantrill's last hurrah.

 

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