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Harriet Tubman Biography

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Harriet Tubman, better known to her people as Moses, helped saved around hundreds of slaves from slavery, risking her life with each trip. She was a strong black woman, a one man, or in reality, woman army. She fought for what she believed in, even if it meant that a lot of the time she would be standing alone. Harriet did not stop fighting till she reached her goal. Tubman is known for helping slaves escape to freedom through the Underground Railroad. She also volunteered to become a spy during the Civil War. Her efforts eventually helped the Union win the war. Harriet was an inspiration to all those around her and still is an inspiration to those today to fight for what you believe in. Throughout this paper, we will examain Harriet Tubman and her impact on our country then and now.

Harriet was born as a slave in Maryland’s eastern shore (History.com, 2009). The exact year she was born is unknown, although it probably occurred between 1820 and 1825 (Biography.com, 2017). Her name was Araminta Harriet Tubman, but she was more frequently called “Minty,” a nickname given to her by her parents. Her mother’s name was Harriet Green, or “Rit” (Harriet-Tubmn.org, 2017). Her owner was Mary Pattison Brodess. She served as a cook in the big house. Minty’s maternal grandmother came on a slave ship conducted by the transatlantic slave trade from Africa. Ben Ross, Araminta’s father, was a slave owned by Anthony Thompson. Thompson and Brodess eventually married. Ben was a very skilled woodsman who overlooked other slaves cut and log timber for the budding ship building industry in Maryland. Rit and Ben met sometime in 1803. This was after Joseph Brodess’, Mary’s first husband, death which briefly merged Thompson’s and Brodess’ properties. Over the span of 24 years the couple had nine children: Linah who was born in 1808, Mariah Ritty in 1811, Soph 1813, Robert 1816, Araminta “Minty” (Harriet), Ben 1823, Rachel 1825, Henry 1830, and Moses 1832. Minty was their fifth child. (Harriet-Tubamn.org, 2017)

Tubman’s childhood was cut short when she was hired out at age 5 to take care of her mistress’ infant. She later recalled being on duty at nights to make sure the baby did not cry. In order to do that, she had to continuously rock the babies cradle or hold her in her arms. Every time a cry was heard from Miss Susan, her mistress, would whip her around the neck. These were her first scars and they remained for the rest of her life. When Harriet was eight she was hired out to another household, one day while her masters were having an argument, she took a lump of sugar which was forbidden. Her mistress found out, and afraid of the punishment she ran away. For three days, she found shelter in a pigpen where she had to compete with pigs for food until her father found her. When looking back, Tubman described this period of her life as being severely neglected. (Harriet-Tubman.org, 2017)

By age 12 Minty was considered strong enough to work in the fields. She would rather do harsh physical work in the plantation rather than the domestic work and being subjected to a white woman or whites in general. One day when Harriet was in the grocery store running an errand for her master, she spotted a fugitive slave. His overseer was about to confront him as he was trying to escape the store. She stood in the doorway blocking the overseer’s way, trying to give the slave time to escape. The overseer had just picked up a heavy metal weight from the counter and aimed it at the slave but instead hit Minty in the head. (Harriet-Tubman.org, 2017) According to Harriet-Tubman.org she remembered this episode: “The weight broke my skull and cut a piece of that shawl clean off and drove it into my head. They carried me to the house all bleeding and fainting. I had no bed, no place to lie down at all, and they laid me on the seat of the loom, and I stayed there all day and the next”. It took months for Minty to recover outwardly from her injury, but she never fully recovered. After this injury Tubman would fall asleep anywhere and it was impossible to wake her up. Her sleeping spells would come to her without warning. Brodess tried to sell her but was unable to find a buyer. Harriet would pretend to have a sleeping spell when she knew she was going to be looked at by a slave trader.

Minty had no education because it was illegal to teach slaves anything apart from the skills they needed from plantation work. Slave owners were afraid that the same type of uprising that happened in Haiti would happen in America where the slaves fought back to the level where all the plantation owners were killed. In 1844 Minty married John Tubman, a free African American. He was born in Dorchester County. Whenever he was born free or into slavery is unknown. There is little known of how they met and their relationship. Marriage between a free man and a slave wasn’t uncommon in this part of the country. Over half of the African American community was free.

These relationships were unstable though because there was always risk of a slave getting sold. Any children from the union would follow the mother’s caliber. Mother free, the child would be free. If Minty and John had children they would have been slaves. In 1867 Harriet received news of her former husband, John Tubman. While in altercation with a white man, he had been killed. Harriet was never formally married to John, it was an informal marriage just like all the other who lived in slavery. In 1869 Tubman met Nelson Davis, a man who had looked for shelter in her home. He had been both a slave in North Carolina and a soldier in the Civil War. Davis and Tubman married on March 18, 1869 at the Presbyterian Church in Auburn. In 1874 they adopted a girl who they named Gertie. Nelson suffered from Tuberculosis and could not hold a study job, leaving Harriet responsible for the household. Their marriage lasted 20 years. Davis died in 1888, the exact cause is unknown but it is said that it is probably from Tuberculosis. (Harriet-Tubman.org, 2017)

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