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Imagine running for your life while leading 300 slaves in the middle of the night not knowing what might happen to you or them. A black African American named Harriet Tubman would shock the world by not just her bravery, but risking her life to save her people. Harriet Tubman made a dramatic change in the world, helped save the lives of her loved ones, and influenced many people she met. Araminta’s (Harriet) family has an interesting background. Tubman’s mother’s arrived on a slave ship from Africa, was bought by an Eastern Shore family named Pattison, and was given the named Modesty. She gave birth to a daughter named Harriet, who was called Rit (by her family) and Rittia (in Pattison records) sometime before 1790. Mary Pattison inherited Rittia in 1797 and three years later she married planter Joseph Brodess. Whatever the relationship, Rittia accompanied her mistress to a new household after Mary wed Joseph Brodess, on March 19, 1800…Even less is known about Tuman’s father, Benjamin Ross. His owner indicated he was born in 1795, which would have made him younger than his wife. However, this was Ben’s age as calculated by a master who inherited him. As Ben who also entitles to his freedom at the age of forty-five. As, slaves, Tubman’s mother, and father were forced to do a master’s bidding, their child’s fate determined by their chattel status.
Araminta Ross (Harriet Tubman) was born around the year 1820 on a plantation in Dorchester, County. Yet because she was born a slave, the exact year of her birth remains unknown. Originally named Araminta Harriet Ross, Tubman was nicknamed “Minty” by her parents. Her parents, Harriet Green and Benjamin Ross, a slave couple who spent a good deal of their married life in close proximity to one another. They struggled, like most enslaved spouses, to create the conditions that would allow them to live together, or at least near each other. They negotiated with their owners and they had different owners throughout their time in slavery. “There is no firm evidence of Araminta’s place in the birth order. However, she later recalled that she was left in charge of both a baby and another younger brother while her mother went to cook in The Big House”. Tubman’s early life was full of hardship. When a trader from Georgia approached Brodess about buying Rit’s youngest son, Moses, Rit successfully resisted the further fracturing of her family, setting a powerful example for her younger daughter.
Araminta’s childhood was a big scar on her life and she went through so much and the terrible things that were happening around her didn’t make things any better. “Araminta’s birthplace was one county over from the headquarters of a notorious crime ring, the Cannon gang. The Cannons had been accused of kidnapping free blacks and selling them in Virginia as early as 1815. A decade later, by the time Harriet was born, they had become so notorious that Mayor Watson of Philadelphia targeted enemies…young Araminta lived only a short distance from the Cannons’ real-life house of horrors, where children disappeared, skeletons were dug up…Tubman came of age at the heart of a crossword, were abolitionists, kidnappers, slave catchers, and fugitives his out form another. When Araminta was only five-years-old, a woman in the neighborhood, a “Miss Susan” drove up to her master’s Plantation and requested “a young girl to take care of a baby,” Araminta was sent off without a moment’s hesitation…Once installed in the new master’s household, she was given a full load of domestic tasks, as well as caring for the infant. After a long day of doing her mistress’ bidding, the five-year-old Araminta reminded on duty…If the baby wailed, this mistress did not comfort her child but instead lifted her hand to grab a small whip from its shelf. By the age of twelve, Araminta had gathered from domestic labor…She became more valuable in fields, where she could hoe and harvest, more contented alongside her fellow African Americans. The once-weak young girl grew into a strong adolescent, of whom much was expected. Even though it was rough in her early teen years, Harriet always found some way to make things a little brighter for herself. As an adolescent, Araminta was farmed out to a man who subjected her to backbreaking drudgery, hoisting barrels of flour into carts. She learned to love the land, where flora and wildlife reflected seasonal change.
Harriet’s bravery and courage is what stands out to many people for example “When Araminta was an adolescent, she was hired out to work on the harvest for a man named Barrett. When another slave, a male coworker, left the fields and headed to Bucktown, the overseer followed. Araminta raced ahead to warn her fellow field hand, knowing there would be trouble. The confrontation between white and black took place at this crossroads, in a small village store. In confusion of the confrontation, the frightened slave bolted from the store. As the slave made haste, Araminta reportedly blocked the angry overseer’s path of pursuit by standing in the doorway just as he picked up a lead weight from the counter and threw it at the escapee. The weight hit Araminta in the head and delivered a stunning blow. Araminta’s condition was so grave that she was sent back to her owner, Brodess, with the report that she was not worth a sixpence. Her parents feared she might never recover. In the following weeks, she would slip into a lethargic sleep from which it was almost impossible to awaken her. These “spells” would come over her without warning. “When Araminta was recovered she was hired out to a local entrepreneur named John Stewart, who had employed others of her family, including her father, for many years. Stewart invited both Araminta and her bothers to join their father in working on his burgeoning lumber operation. She regained her strength and became even stronger during her time working under Stewart’s supervision. Soon after she arrived at Stewart’s lads, she began to shop logs and tote timber. Her daily haul was roughly half a cord of wood, a sturdy amount that few men could match. By this time she had grown to her full adult height of five feet. Araminta’s father managed the shipping of Stewart’s timber to the Baltimore market. During one year while working for Stewart, Araminta was able to save enough money to buy a pair of steers”.
A big change happened to Harriet’s father that would change her life and her dad’s life. “Ben Ross was owned by Anthony Thomson, who promised to emancipate him at the age of forty-five. Anthony Thomson finally died in 1836. The man son and heir, Dr. Anthony Thomson, honored his father’s promise when he determined Ben had reached the age of forty-five. Ben Ross was granted his freedom in 1840”. Marrying someone is probably the best thing that can happen to you. “Little is known about the other most important aspect of Amraminta coming of age: her relationship with the man who would become her husband, John Tubman. He was born near White Marsh, in northern Dorchester county. By the time he and Araminta married, in 1844, he was a free black, though whether he was born in freedom is unknown. Tubman was the family name of wealthy Dorchester County planters. These Eastern Shore Tubmans were Catholic slaveholders…Intermarriage between free and a slave was not the general rule, But in Maryland, especially along the Eastern Shore. There are no surviving descriptions of Araminta and John’s courtship, nor even any hints about how they first met. It was likely that the two became acquainted while she was working for John Stewart”.
“…Tubman had been visiting by powerful visions, waking dreams that she felt were sending her messages. Ever since her skull injury, she suffered from episodes that were likened to narcoleptic spells. She might have several of these episodes a day. Regardless of their source, the images that hunted Tubman were graphic and terrifying. Araminta herself did not yet have any children, but her marriage to John Tubman surely introduced fears for any children but might bear while still enslaved. As the couple felt pulled in different directions, Araminta described a palpable longing for a place-the promised land of the North”. Difficulties were arising and there was nothing Araminta could really do. She was praying and trying to do anything she wanted to be free. She wanted her family free so she planned to escape to the North. “On September 17, 1849, Araminta, Ben, escaped their Maryland plantation. Araminta persevered 90 miles north”. “Tubman confirmed that a white woman assisted her on the first leg of her journey. The assistance Tubman was granted was punishable by law. The penalties were quite stiff. The story reveals that Harriet has skills besides her talent as a field-worker. Also, she had contacts with white women as well as blacks within the region. After dusk, Harriet would resume her journey northward “Once freed, Araminta decided to take a new first name: Harriet…Her escape was remarkable…It was roughly 90 miles from Tubman’s Maryland home to Wilmington and a few miles to the Pennsylvania state line.”
Harriet leaving what behind her family and her owner and traveling on her own to an unknown place would definitely be different. “Tubman left no account of who actually reached out during her escape to freedom. She luckily arrived in Philadelphia unharmed. Shortly after her arrival Tubman found employment and become self-supporting, though little is known about what work she took on. She and other newcomers would have discovered the flourishing demand for black domestics, especially nursemaids, kitchen labor, and laundress many households required live-in help.” Harriet Tuman really missed her family so much that she realized that she needed to go back and get them. “In December 1850, Tubman received a warning that her niece Kessiah was going to be sold, along with her two young children.”
“Tubman was deeply concerned about getting the word back to her family on the Eastern Shore…She transformed herself from a follower of the North Star to a leader among her people…There is no way of knowing what convinced Tubman that she herself must go back into Maryland, a slave state, to help with the rescue…Harriet was determined to find a way to bring a favorite niece and her children out to freedom before they were put on the auction block…On this, her second expedition, Tubman not only rescued one of her brothers, perhaps James Isaac, but also two other men…In the autumn of 1851, on her third trip south, Harriet undertook her most desperate gamble. She wanted to persuade her husband, John Tubman, to come away with her. So she returned once again to the Eastern Shore…She approached Cambridge and sent a message to John asking him to meet her and to accompany her on her journey back to the north. While in hiding, Tubman discovered that her husband had taken another wife, a woman named Caroline… Her friends reported that Harriet took this turn of events very hard…John Tubman’s liaison with another woman (a woman who would bear his children) dashed all dreams.”
She carried a gun for both her own protection and to “encourage” her charges who might be having second thoughts. She often drugged babies and young children to prevent slave catchers from hearing their cries. Over the next ten years, Harriet befriended other abolitionists such as Fredrick Douglass, Thomas Garrett, and Martha Coffin Wright, and established her own Underground Railroad network. It’s widely reported she emancipated 300 slaves. Harriet was strong and wasn’t going to let her husband issues hurt what she wanted for other people. She was going to keep moving on. The 1850 Fugitive Slave act allowed fugitive and free slaves in the north to be captured and enslaved. This made Harriet’s job as an Underground Railroad conductor much harder and forced her to lead slaves further north to Canada, traveling at night, usually in the spring or fall when the days were shorter.
“Harriet did not give away to rage or grief, but collected a party of fugitives and bring them safely to Philadelphia…From 1852, Tubman regularly made at least one trip a year, often two deep into slave territory…Tubman remained for several weeks north of the border returning to the State in the spring of 1852. Thus began a seasonal pattern of migration for Tubman: rescuing a large party in the fall, then back to Canada in the winter…She made occasional rescue in the spring, but much less frequently than in the fall…There is evidence that she would make brief and isolated trips across the Mason-Dixson Line to rescue immediate family members of those for whom she already secured freedom, almost always missions to reunite families. Harriet Tubman was one of the pioneers of using the actual railway as part of her “underground” railroad. She herself frequently took trains south, reasoning it was less suspicious to have black women travel by public transportation into slave states rather than vice versa.”
War is about to break out and Harriet had a significant role in it. “Abraham Lincoln struggled to hold his fractured nation together. But within weeks of his own inauguration, following the Confederates firing on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. After a month of tense speculation, North and South were finally at war. Harriet Tubman finally crossed back into the United States. The streets of every American city were soon filled with soldiers marching off to enlist. The South could draw on 900,000 eligible white men, while the North had a pool of more than 4 million. Trailing along with Butler’s all-white troops in May 1861, Tubman arrived at encampments near Fort Monroe…While she was at Fort Monroe, Tubman’s role was neither official nor directly related to military operations. But civilian volunteers became vital when “contrabands” flooded into the federal camps…Tubman interpreted flight from the Confederacy as the rising of a race. She welcomed the tide of refugees and took on the challenges of caregiving without complaint-as a cook, a laundress, as a nurse. During the war’s earliest weeks, even if Tubman had more militaristic aspirations, she devoted herself to domestic duties.
“In 1863, Harriet became head of an espionage and scout network for the Union Army. She provided crucial intelligence to the Union commanders about the Confederate Army supply routes and troops and helped liberate slaves to form black Union regiments.” Even though Harriet’s marriage fell apart she got it back. “…a young black soldier whom Tubman had known during her wartime service in the South reappeared in her life. Private Nelson Charles had been born a slave near Elizabeth City, North Carolina, but escaped his master, Fred Charles, and removed to upstate New York. After training in Philadelphia, the nineteen-year-old Charles moved south with his unit in January 1864. He landed in South Carolina, where he met Harriet Tubman. Nelson was honorably discharged from the army in November 1865 at Brownsville, Texas, and he made his way to Auburn, arriving in upstate New York. Davis found work as a bricklayer and became a boarder in Tubman’s expanding household…On March 18, 1869, the Reverend Henry Fowler married the couple at Auburn’s Central Presbyterian Church. At the time, Davis was only twenty-five and Harriet was at least twenty years older-if not twice the groom’s age.”
Harriet had an open-door policy for anyone in need. She supported her philanthropy efforts by selling her home-grown produce, raising pigs and accepting donations and loans from friends. She remained illiterate yet toured parts of the northeast speaking on behalf of the women’s suffrage movement and worked with noted suffrage leaders. In 1896, Harriet purchased land adjacent to her home and opened the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged and Indigent Colored People. The head injury she suffered in her youth continued to plague her and she endured brain surgery to help relieve her symptoms. But her health continued to deteriorate and eventually forced her to move into her namesake rest home in 1911. People die someday. “Harriet Tubman witnessed the burials of Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, William Seward, so many statesmen and politicians, all her colleagues in the struggle to free the slaves. She survived the deaths of the Civil War comrades-General Saxton, Gillmore, and Montgomery, and so many of the officers and soldiers she knew during the war. She outlived several siblings, nieces, and nephews, as well as two husbands. Shortly before she died, on the evening of March 10, 1913, in loving remembrance she told the assembled mourners, “I go to prepare a place for you.” In March 1913 Harriet Tuman was buried with military honors in Auburn’s Fort Hill Cemetery.
It only takes one person to make a difference in the world, and Harriet Tubman did just that in what she accomplished for many people. Standing up for what is right might be the hardest thing you can do. Harriet Tubman showed this in freeing her people from slavery and helping out in the Civil War. Harriet Tubman’s legacy will always live on forever. She will be remembered by her bravery, her love for her people, and most importantly her fight for what was right. Harriet Tubman’s skills and hard work were very inspiring to read. Before reading about Harriet Tubman I knew very little about her, but right from to Geico I knew she was a truly amazing person that never gave up through hardship. Her childhood through her adulthood was an interesting part of history.
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