Harriet Tubman was born a slave. No one is quite sure of
which year she was born, dates vary from 1819 - 1821. When a slave master died
the slaves were either sold or taken over by whoever inherited them. Harriet's
master died, and all his property, including the slaves, was to be sold. Harriet
escaped from the property in Maryland. She went to Pennsylvania where she could
After Harriet was free she wanted to help other people to
be free. First, she rescued her sister and children, and then she helped many
more people. She then worked as a "conductor" on the underground railway. It
was a way of smuggling people to freedom. Each trip was very carefully planned.
People were passed along from "conductor" to conductor. The conductors were
people who helped the escaping slaves. They provided them with food and shelter
and passed them on to the next person in the chain. The "passengers" were
hidden in churches and homes along the way. It was very dangerous for anyone who
helped them. If they were caught they could be sent to prison. Harriet could
have been returned into slavery, if she was caught.
Harriet was a master planner. She thought of all the small
ways they may be discovered. She even gave babies something to make them sleep,
so they wouldn't cry and be discovered. Harriet was not afraid to protect
herself or her passengers. She carried a gun, and would threaten any passenger
who looked like giving trouble, or returning. If any slave changed their mind,
Harriet would force them to continue at gunpoint. She could not afford for them
to return and say where they had been.
When the Civil War started Harriet helped out as a nurse, a
cook and a scout for the Union Army. She was respected by most people for her
work, but did no receive a pension, because she was black.
She set up charities to help former slaves and she raised
money for schools and to help the poor and sick. She started a home for elderly
colored people. She dies in that home in 1913.
Harriet's early life
virtual trip on the Underground Railroad
Join our Black History Month Challenge:
Learn more about the challenge.