During the month of March, Sound celebrates Women’s History Month, placing a spotlight on the accomplishments of women throughout history who have made an impact on society. This week, we recognize Harriet Tubman, who personally escorted more than 300 slaves to lives of freedom and played a role in freeing others.
1822 – 1913
American abolitionist and political activist
Born Araminta Ross in Dorchester County, Maryland in 1822, Harriet Tubman came into the world as a slave. During her childhood, Tubman endured regular beatings by slave masters and suffered from a traumatic head wound that caused reoccurring dizziness and pain throughout much of her life.
A devout Methodist, the 5 ft. 2 in. Tubman claimed to have experienced visions and intense dreams, which she viewed as premonitions from God. Although slaves could not legally marry, Tubman entered a marital union with John Tubman, a free black man, in 1844, took his name and called herself Harriet.
Using a secret network of intricate trails and safe houses called the Underground Railroad, and with help from other abolitionists, Tubman returned to the South several times and helped dozens of people escape. Her remarkable success during a ten-year span prompted angry slaveowners to post a $40,000 reward for her capture or death. During the life of the Underground Railroad, Tubman directed approximately 13 missions and rescued roughly 70 enslaved people.
Also known as “Moses,” Tubman traveled by night and stated she “never lost a passenger.” After the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, she helped guide fugitives farther north into British North America (Canada) and helped them find work. Tubman recruited other opponents of slavery for white abolitionist John Brown in 1858. Tubman’s dedication to undermining the evil institution of slavery also included serving as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War, coordinating the raid at Combahee Ferry in South Carolina. This mission liberated more than 700 slaves. After the Civil War, she retired in Auburn, New York, where she took care of her aging parents.
The burgeoning women’s suffrage movement also benefited from Tubman’s support in the late 1800s. Tubman passed away in 1913. Her life story was the subject of the 2019 movie, Harriet.