Harriet Tubman

 

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Harriet Tubman

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1820 – Mar 10, 1913

Slave, Guide, Army Nurse, Spy

American

“I am where I am because of the bridges that I crossed. Sojourner Truth was a bridge. Harriet Tubman was a bridge. Ida B. Wells was a bridge. Madame C. J. Walker was a bridge. Fannie Lou Hamer was a bridge.” -- Oprah Winfrey

“In my underground railroad, I never ran my train off the track, and I never lost a passenger.”

One somewhat predictable element to Tubman’s escapes was they usually began Saturday night to take advantage of Sunday, the typical day off, and to push news reports of the escape into the next week.

Harriet was born into slavery. At five, her master began renting her out as a laborer to surrounding neighbors. She was often whipped and beaten and developed a reputation for being a defiant but hard worker, who was better at outdoor field work than anything indoors. When she was a teen, she tried to prevent an overseer from punishing a runaway slave. The enraged overseer hit her on the head with a two-pound weight, which put her into a coma. After recovering, she suffered from sleeping fits, or random blackouts, for the rest of her life. She escaped north to freedom on the Underground Railroad in 1849 and vowed to help other slaves escape. At the risk of her own life, she made 19 trips into the South and brought more than 300 slaves to freedom. Despite her blackouts and illiteracy, she never lost a “passenger” on the Underground Railroad. Once, to disguise herself, she pretended to be reading a book (just hoping she was holding it right side up). The men looking for her walked by commenting that the one they were looking for couldn’t read. Rewards totaling up to $40,000 were offered for her capture. She eventually helped her own ten siblings and parents to freedom. During the Civil War, she served as a nurse, scout and spy for the Union Army but never received compensation for her hard and dangerous work. After the war, Harriet raised money for black machines and was tireless in her efforts to improve situations for the blacks. She set up a home for elderly and needy blacks. Still carrying the scars of slavery on her back, she stopped in 1913 at the age of 93.