Harriet Tubman: Guiding Light to Freedom

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Harriet Tubman began life as a slave and died a free woman. In between, she risked her life countless times to bring other slaves to freedom.

She was born in 1819 or 1820 (history is not sure which) in Dorchester County, Maryland. Her name at birth was Araminta Ross. (Her father, also a slave, was Ben Ross.) Like many slaves at that time, young "Minty," as she liked to be called, was beaten for stepping out of line. When she was 12, she was beaten so hard that she suffered a skull fracture, all because she wouldn't help tie up a fellow slave who had been caught trying to escape.

She suffered through many more years in slavery, then escaped by marrying a free African-American name John Tubman and changed her name to Harriet Tubman. She was 25.

Harriet, now named Tubman, was always in fear of having to return to being a slave. When she was 30, she escaped to Canada.

On the way, she stopped for a time in Philadelphia, where she met William Still, the Philadelphia Stationmaster on the Underground Railroad. She learned more about the organization and determined to help out where she could.

She worked closely with fellow abolitionists John Brown and Frederick Douglass. She was to have gone on Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry but was sick and so escaped the capture that led to Brown's death.

She quietly moved many of her family members to Canada, then returned time and again to Maryland to help other slaves escape. She is believed to have personally helped more than 70 people to freedom. During the Civil War, she was also a nurse and even a spy.

After the war, she moved to Auburn, New York, where she married Nelson Davis. She was heavily involved in the movement to give women the right to vote. In 1908, she built a wooden house for the elderly, which she worked in until her death, in 1913. She was buried with military honors.

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