Named Moses by abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Tubman certainly worked hard to acquire her nickname. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped to freedom in 1849. As a true abolitionist, she helped the enslaved. Using the Underground Railroad, her vocation became freeing slaves. Making 13 missions, she freed 70 slaves. By giving them the gift of freedom, Tubman became a hero.
Born in Dorchester County, Maryland, she had a difficult life as a youngster. Her masters often beat her. Like many slaves, the exact date of her birth is not known. According to historians, she was probably born between 1820 and 1825. As one of nine children, she had the responsibility of looking after her younger siblings. She was also forced to work as a slave. Even though Tubman and her brothers and sisters endured the hardships of slavery, they all grew up with loving parents. Harriet “Rit” Green and Ben Ross, Tubman’s parents, taught Harriet and her siblings’ family values. Devoid of having a real childhood, Tubman was forced to grow up really fast.
Even though she did not have a formal education, Harriet, Tubman’s mom, often read the Bible to her. Having faith certainly served her well as an abolitionist. Always being a devout Christian her entire life, she often had visions and prophetic dreams.
After living a life of slavery, Tubman decided that she finally wanted to be free. On September 17, 1849, she escaped with her two brothers, Ben and Henry. Unfortunately, her brothers did not have her courage. They both decided to return to their master’s home. Their decision forced Tubman to return.
Having a valiant spirit, Tubman made a second escape from slavery by herself. Using the Underground Railroad, she took a 90 mile trip northeast along the Choptank River. Later she passed through Delaware. When she arrived north to Pennsylvania, she was finally free. After tasting how sweet freedom was, she helped free other slaves. They included her family members, her friends and even strangers.
In the course of 11 years, she returned to the Eastern Shore of Maryland freeing 70 slaves. Her journeys were dangerous. There were always slave catchers who were interested in catching slaves. Their incentive was a fugitive award. She usually traveled at night when it was safer. She also wore disguises to avoid getting caught. One time she dressed in a bonnet. On another occasion, she had live chickens, so it looked as if she was doing chores. She even carried a revolver for protection. During her risky missions, she was never caught. She always led her people safely to freedom like Moses led the Hebrews.
In addition freeing her people from slavery, she also participated in the Civil War. Since she was an abolitionist, she strongly sympathized with the Union. Always defending the Union cause, she was a nurse, cook, armed scout and spy.
As a result of working to free slaves, through the Underground Railroad, she acquired expertise to help develop key military strategies during the Civil War. She helped Colonel James Montgomery capture Jacksonville, Florida. She also assisted Colonel Montgomery and his troops conduct the raid Combahee Ferry. During the raid at Combahee Ferry, 750 slaves were liberated. Selflessly supporting the Union cause, many of these men that were freed from slavery joined the Union Army.
After serving the Union forces, her work was not yet done. Tubman worked with Susan B. Anthony and Emily Howland to promote women’s suffrage. She wanted women to have equal rights. Always having a love of travel, she went to New York, Boston and Washington DC to defend women’s voting rights. When the National Federation of Afro-American Women was founded in 1896, Tubman was an important speaker. Since women obtained the right to vote on August 26, 1920, her efforts as well as those of other suffragettes paid off.
After her lifelong service, Tubman passed away on March 10, 1913 in Auburn, New York. She died from pneumonia. Her legacy will never be forgotten. Many places in the United States are named in her honor. The Harriet Home in Auburn and the Harriet Tubman Museum are tourist attractions dedicated to this brave lady who freed her people. In March 2013, President Barack Obama signed a declaration creating the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument.
Even though freedom is one of the greatest gifts our democracy offers, sometimes we take it for granted. As for Tubman, she always knew how valuable liberty truly was since she was born into slavery. When she escaped from slavery in 1849, she could have forgotten the other slaves. Having such a giving nature, she remembered her people. Since her heart was always with the enslaved, she did not rest till they found freedom.