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“When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven”. Harriet Tubman was an important African American in the history of slavery. Harriet Tubman still captures the interest of modern Americans, because of the lengths she went to help others gain freedom. Harriet Tubman was born into slavery around 1820 on a Plantation in Dorchester County, Maryland. Her mother, Harriet Green, worked as a cook on the plantation, and her father, Benjamin, was a timber worker. Harriet had eight siblings, but slavery eventually forced many of them apart, even after her mother tried to keep them together. When Harriet was five, she was rented out as a nursemaid where she would be whooped if the baby started to cry, leaving her with permanent emotional scars. Around age seven Harriet was rented out as a field hand. “She later said she preferred physical plantation work to indoor domestic shores”. At age 12 Harriet realized the need for justice when she seen an overseer about to throw a weight at a fugitive slave, when she stepped into the middle of the two, she was struck in the head. “The weight broke my skull. They carried me to the house all bleeding and fainting. I had no bed, no place to lie down on at all, and they laid me on the seat of the loom, and I stayed there all day and the next.” She would fall into a deep sleep at random and endured vivid dreams, which she said were religious experiences. Harriet also had seizures and narcolepsy the rest of her life.
Around 1844, Harriet married a free black man, John Tubman, and changed her last name to his. The marriage wasn’t good and John would threaten to sell Harriet to the South. Her husband’s threats and the thought that her brothers, Ben and Henry, were about to be sold caused Harriet to plan an escape. On September 17, 1849, Harriet, Ben, and Henry escaped Maryland, but on the way, Ben and Henry went back. With the help of the Underground Railroad, Harriet traveled 90 miles north to Pennsylvania and freedom. With a feeling of relief she recalled, “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.” After working as a housekeeper in safety, she wasn’t okay with living free on her own and wanted freedom for her family and others living in slavery. She soon returned to the South to rescue her niece, Kessiah, because she was going to be sold, along with her two young children. Kessiah’s husband made the winning bid for his wife at an auction, and Harriet helped the entire family escaped to Philadelphia. This was the first trip of many. With the passing of the fugitive slave law, it made Harriet’s job as a conductor for the Underground Railroad harder. “ Which required the return of runaway slaves. Any black even free blacks could be sent south solely on the affidavit of anyone claiming to be his or her owner. The law stripped runaway slaves of such basic legal rights as the right to a jury trial and the right to testify in one’s own defense.” This law forced Harriet to lead slaves as far as Canada, traveling at night and in the spring or fall when the days were shorter. She came up with clever techniques that helped make her escapes successful, including using the master’s horse and buggy for the first leg of the journey; leaving on a Saturday night, since runaway notices couldn’t be placed in newspapers until Monday morning; turning about and heading south if she encountered possible slave hunters; and carrying a drug to use on a baby if its crying might put the fugitives in danger”. In December 1851, Harriet guided 11 slaves to the North and on the way stopped at the home of abolitionist, Frederick Douglas. Over the next 10 years, she befriended Thomas Garrett, Martha Coffin Wright, and established her own Underground Railroad network. In 1961, the Civil War broke out and Harriet found new ways to fight slavery. As Harriet worked for the Union Army as a cook and nurse, she quickly became a spy and armed scout. She was the first woman to lead an expedition in the war, and guide the Combahee River Raid, that liberated over 700 slaves in South Carolina. She also helped liberate slaves to form black Union regiments. It took the government over three decades to recognize her military contributions and award her financially.
After the civil war, Harriet settled with her family on land she owned in Auburn, New York. She married Civil War veteran Nelson Davis in 1869 and they adopted a daughter, Gertie, a few years after. Harriet loved to promote the welfare of others by selling her home-grown produce and raising pigs. She remained illiterate but still visited parts of the northeast speaking in support of the women’s suffrage movement and worked with suffrage leader, Susan B. Anthony. In 1896, Harriet purchased land next to her home and opened the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged and Indigent Colored People. The head injury she encountered when she was younger continued to affect her and she endured brain surgery to help with her symptoms. Even after this, her health continued to decline and eventually forced her to move into her rest home in 1911. On March 10, 1913, Pneumonia took Harriet Tubman’s life. Her legacy still lives on in schools, books and movies. Even though Harriet Tubman went through hard times on her own she still had the heart to go back and help others and that is why she is still well known in history today. Throughout Harriet Tubman’s life she contributed to many successful saves when it came to freeing slaves from their masters. Harriet Tubman said, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world”.
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