Abolitionist Harriet Tubman never forgot her roots
*On this date we remember the birth of Harriet Ross Tubman in 1820. She was a black abolitionist who escaped from slavery and returned to the South repeatedly to lead other African slaves to freedom.
Originally named Araminta, or "Minty," Harriet Ross was born on Maryland's eastern shore. In 1844, she married John Tubman, a free Black man. Resolved to escape the horrible conditions of slavery, she tried to convince her husband to join her but he refused. She fled without him, until coming to Pennsylvania, a free state. In 1850, she made her first secret trip to Baltimore, where she rescued her enslaved sister and her two children. Tubman soon became allied with activists of the Underground Railroad.
In at least 15 trips to the South between 1850 and 1860, she guided around 70 men, women, and children to freedom, including her entire family. In her work, Tubman used medications to quiet crying babies and employed several disguises. After Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which required Northern states to return escaped slaves, Tubman settled runaways in what is now Ontario, Canada. During the Civil War, with the Union army traveling to South Carolina, she served as liaison between the soldiers and newly freed Blacks, moving them towards self-sufficiency.
Although she got a commendation from officers, she received no pay. After the war, Tubman returned to Auburn to care for her parents. Eventually, she converted her house to a residence for the old and poor. She spent many of her final years working on behalf of women's suffrage. Harriet Tubman died on March 10, 1913.
Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York
Today in American History