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A little African American girl stares out of a window, just as she puts her masters baby to bed. She has no dreams of becoming a great savior, known by all. She just wants what is best for her and her family. Someone yells out her name, known by few, and she turns from the window. Nobody knew that many years later, she would become a famous heroine that everyone looks up to. Everyone would know her name. She is Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman did so much in her life, but when she was a little girl, she had no intentions of becoming who she is today. Yes, she wanted to be free, but she never thought that was possible. She just wanted to be safe and away from all of the beatings and poor treatment. “Before she became the great Harriet Tubman, she would start out on a plantation in Maryland, and known as Araminta “‘Minty’ Ross”. Soon she would be known. Harriet Tubman would be known for her early life, escape from slavery, and her help in the Civil War.
Sometime, in the 1820’s, Minty Ross was born on a slave plantation in Maryland. “She says she was born 1825, but her death certificate says 1815, and her grave says 1820”. Minty was born in a small cabin with no windows or furniture. Her parents could read or write so that is why there is no written record of her birth. Minty’s slave master was Edward Brodas. Her parents’ names were Harriet Green and Benjamin Ross. Mintys grandmother, also her mother’s mother, arrived on a slave ship from Africa. Her grandmother was named Modesty and bought by the Pattison family when she arrived from Africa. Minty’s mother was supposed to be given freedom after her master’s death, because it was in his will, but they never told her mother. This also means that Minty was supposed to be free. Mintys father was born in 1795 and what they called full blood negro. Benjamin was a skilled woodsman as well. As soon as Minty could walk, she began working, as customary for slave children (McDonough, Who was Harriet Tubman 7). Minty never got to play or go to school as most children should. She was always working, and that is all she knew how to do. Minty never got the chance to learn how to read or write, but if she could, I bet she would take it. Minty worked for many people as a child. Her master would send her off to other plantations to work for their masters as a housemaid, to take care of the babies, and such work. She was too young to work in the fields efficiently (McDonough, Who was Harriet Tubman 11).
One time, in a different masters house she decided to steal sugar. She had never had it before and thought it looked delicious. Her temporary master found this out and started running at her with a whip! Poor Minty just wanted to try it, but had to run away quickly from her furious master. Lucky for Minty, she was a ton faster than her master so she ran out the door and did not stop running till she was sure the lady had stopped chasing her. Minty stayed in a pigpen for five days, and fought with the pigs for scraps of food. She had to go back because she was starving and had nowhere else to go. Minty returned reluctantly to her master and got a terrible whipping. She was also sent back to her owner after what had happened. Her owner then sent her out to do field work, which was very hard for women in general, but excruciating at her young age (McDonough, Who was Harriet Tubman 20). Minty heard the first ideas of freedom doing field work though, and heard stories of people going North to be free. One day, Minty was at the market to get food for her master, when she saw a man trying to escape his master and run North. The man ran out the door, and Minty stepped in front of it so the master couldn’t get to the runaway. The master threw a two pound weight at the runaway, but it hit Minty in the head instead. Some people carried Minty back to her cabin, because she was unconscious and bleeding. Minty’s mother stayed by Minty’s side the whole time she recovered. Nobody had any faith that she would live. The wound left a scar right in the front of Minty’s head, so that is why she always wore a head wrap. She healed, but suffered headaches and sleeping spells for the rest of her life. Field work also brought her closer to God. She loved the outdoors and the nature surrounding it. She believed it was all a gift from God and that it was meant to be there.
A few years after this incident, Minty got married to John Tubman. The relationship was not very good, and it is even rumored that he beat Minty and threatened to sell her to someone else illegally. John Tubman was a free African American, so Minty couldn’t do anything against him and his threats. Then, the problem with being sold got bigger. John wasn’t the only one threatening her. Minty’s master had just died, and there was a great chance that she would be put up for auction. Minty was brave and daring though, so she did not want this to happen. She decided that she would go North, and obtain freedom. Minty went on her own for the first time, which was unusual since she was a woman. She used the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was a series of stops and houses used by runaways to escapee. The houses and stops would provide rest and shelter for a night, and also help the slaves not get caught. The houses might be marked by something or have a certain aspect for the slaves to know it was a safe place (McDonough, Who was Harriet Tubman 45). When she arrived at the town, the people wouldn’t believe that she went on her own. Minty then decided to change her name, to mark her 90 mile trip to freedom. She went from Araminta “Minty” Ross to Harriet Tubman. Harriet later went back to get her husband a few years later, because she was lonely. When she went back, she found that he was remarried, so she instead freed other slaves on the plantation, including some of her family members. She went back several times, and freed over 70 people. She also became a conductor of the Underground Railroad. As a conductor of the Underground Railroad, you risk your life to free slaves. If only one were to die in your group, it would be the conductor because it is their job to protect all slaves in this journey. Harriet started being called Moses, and people of the south started putting a bounty on her head because of how many people she was freeing. Historians have studied her ways and tactics for so many years because of how well they worked. They were astonished about how well Harriet could hide and move so many people at once. Harriet prayed to God constantly, and she said that he answered her and showed her the way. Harriet was also called Moses by the people she freed and on her bounty posters. People were amazed by what this person was doing, and even more astounded when they heard she was a woman. Harriet had to start moving the people to Canada though, because slave kidnappers were infesting the North, so it got dangerous for her to free people. Proslavery speakers also tried to say that conductors of the Underground Railroad, such as Harriet, were the real kidnappers and slave stealers because they took people. In reality, Harriet Tubman and so many others were freeing the ‘kidnapped’ people and doing everyone a favor. She stopped for a while, only going on a few and important missions to free people. Then the Civil War started.
Harriet Tubman had settled down in Canada when the Civil War started. At first, Harriet just served as a nurse and a cook for both African Americans and white men on the North’s side. Harriet worked at ‘Sick and Wounded Hospital No. 6’. She voluntarily did this work, because she wanted to help end slavery anyway she could. The North did not want the South to secede, and they also wanted to end slavery (McDonough, Who was Harriet Tubman 72). When troops brought back enslaved people, Harriet helped teach them how to think of themselves as free people, because they had never been free before. She took care of all of the soldiers and fed them well. Harriet would give the soldiers medicine, shoo away bugs swarming around the patients, cook food, and so much more for them. Later on, she became a spy. She was asked to become a spy personally by Colonel James Montgomery. Harriet worked for the North side of the civil war and admired Abraham Lincoln. She knew that Lincoln would help slavery end because he also helped stop slave shipments from coming in. Harriet was small enough to slip through anywhere without being caught and she looked harmless. She was able to get to the South side and talk to the black people there. They trusted her and shared any information they could to her. She couldn’t just go to the other side and free all of them though, so they had to do that in battle. Harriet became Commander of Intelligence Operations for the Union army’s Department of the South, and she had nine scouts under her command (McDonough, Who was Harriet Tubman 78). White men were not used to being commanded by women, nevertheless a black woman, but learned quickly to respect her. They also ended up admiring her and trying to be like her because of her bravery.
Harriet was used to the dangers of being caught because she was once a conductor of the Underground Railroad. She wasn’t scared of danger. Harriet led many raids and fights against the South, on land and off land. She stopped Southerners supplies from coming in and freed slaves. One of her big feats was when she led a raid on a rice plantation. That plantation had over 100 slaves, and she helped free them all. Harriet also carried a pistol around with her and was not afraid to use it. The only problem was she had to wear a long skirt. It was considered improper for a woman to wear men’s clothing, so she had no choice. She went on one mission with a long skirt, and couldn’t do it. She couldn’t move freely around. After that, she went to some clothes people, and they gave her an outfit with a short skirt, worn with pants underneath, and a jacket. She could move freely and be comfortable in this. Harriet was old and tired after being a slave, conductor, and serving in the army so long so she wanted to retire. After all, she had now saved over 300 slaves. The government owed her over 1,000 dollars which in today’s money would be over 30,000 dollars in today’s money. Fredrick Douglass, a high up and friend of Harriet even wrote to the government asking for the money. Fredrick Douglass met Harriet when he actually went up to her in Canada to ask for help in the Civil War (Blight 299). He thought Harriet was legendary and could help their cause. Fredrick Douglas was born a slave and taught himself to read and write. Harriet ended up never getting the money she was owed in her long life. Harriet grew to be very old after she retired, somewhere in her 90’s. In her time after retirement she got remarried and many other things. Harriet got married to Nelson Davis, who was twenty years younger than her, but had tuberculosis. He needed caring for, and Harriet was always looking for ways to help people. They met during the war and were fighting together in one of the black bridges. Money was always scarce where they were because the government never paid Harriet, but she found her ways to manage. Sarah Bradfordwrote books about her, and she got money off of that but it wasn’t enough.
In 1888, Nelson Davis died, and Harriet was alone again. She later on found out John Tubman was murdered in Maryland in 1867. Harriet started to grow crops for money. It was very successful at that. Some people would invite her in to hear her stories about her life. Harriet also gave speeches for money. She talked about her life, her experiences, her beliefs, and much more. Everyone loved to hear her talk. Harriet died in 1913. She got pneumonia and was surrounded by one of her brothers and some good friends. Her last words were “I go to prepare a place for you” (Clinton 214). She was buried with military honors in Auburn’s Fort Hill Cemetery. Everyone who knew her loved and admired her. She was a great person who cared about the safety of her people, and now even in Heaven, she is preparing a place for us. This Negro heronie was known for her early life, escape from slavery, and help in the Civil War. Harriet did so much for her people even to death. So many people still look up to her today. Harriet Tubman said, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world”. She wants us to know that anything, even your strangest dreams are possible. Harriet has always fought for what she believed and made her point to make a change happen. She got the result she wanted and made her name known. Harriet will always be known for her brave actions.
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