The Life and Activism of Harriet Tubman, an American Abolitionist and Humanitarian

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In the nineteenth century, there were hundreds of abolitionists who helped slaves escape their hostile owners, but there was one woman who went above and beyond to save slaves. This woman’s name is Araminta Harriet Ross, most commonly known as Harriet Tubman. Her actions saved many people’s lives and she is recognized as one of the bravest women in history.

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Harriet Tubman knew how cruel slavery was all too well; she was born into slavery in 1819 in Maryland and her whole family was raised in slavery including her grandparents! Harriet escaped from her master’s plantation in 1849; she left at night and was helped by a woman that was a part of the Underground Railroad? (the Underground Railroad was an arrangement of secret houses and routes to states that did not allow slavery. The Railroad was run by abolitionist and it was the best way to escape slavery). Once Harriet reached Philadelphia she stated, “I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land; and my home after all, was down in Maryland, because my father, my mother, my brothers, and sisters, and friends were there”. Although, she felt lonely she made sure to keep herself busy. The best way she distracted herself was by helping others and become a member of the Underground Railroad.

Harriet Tubman would often return to slave-holding states and help slaves survive and runaway. Within her lifetime she took nineteen trips to the South and saved people. She was such a threat to slave owners that there was a reward for her capturing. The reward was over $40,000 which was a very large amount of money back then. Apparently, she had stolen $300,000 of slave property which is why her reward was so high. Once she escaped she had became the “conductor” for the Underground Railroad.

Harriet Tubman cared very deeply for her family and would do anything for them. When she escaped successfully she attempted to bring her brothers with her but they decided to stay at the plantation because they were scared. A year after she had escaped she came back to save her sister and her sister’s two children. Her attempt was successful and she made a second trip to save her brother and two other slaves. Harriet was married when she had escaped and she returned to help her husband escape, but she found out that he had married another woman, so she left with other slaves.

Harriet had multiple techniques that helped her save slaves escape and not get caught. One of her techniques was by leaving on a Saturday night, because bounties for runaways could not be posted in newspapers on Sundays. Another way they would escape was by hiding in wagons and being hidden under straw, blankets, etc. If Harriet was helping infant runaway she would drug the baby if it was crying so it wouldn’t bring attention to them while hiding from slave hunters. She also would steal the escapees master buggy in order to escape quickly, this was a very successful technique. Harriet was a very clever woman and tricked multiple slave hunters. Once, “she overheard some men reading her wanted poster, which stated that she was illiterate.” so “She promptly pulled out a book and feigned reading it. The ploy was enough to fool the men.”.5 Occasionally slaves would become scared want to return to their families, so they’d attempt to run back to their master’s home. Harriet never let slaves return home, instead she would get out a gun and say “You’ll be free or die a slave!”. She would not let slaves run back home, because they could give Harriet away and she could get caught by slave hunters. Harriet became a leader to all slaves and was nicknamed “Moses”. Within the nineteen trips she had taken she saved and helped over 300 slaves.

Once the Civil War began Harriet began to help the Union Army. At first, she was a cook and helped make food for troops and she also was a nurse. Eventually her skills were noticed and she became an armed scout and helped the army by being a spy because she knew the land so well. She also knew a lot about the Confederate Army so her knowledge was very useful to the Union Army. While in service she helped the Combahee River Raid, a group of a 150 soldiers, to help free over seven hundred slaves in South Carolina.”

During her freedom, she had become acquainted with William Seaward, he was a New York Senator in 1858. They were very good friends and he was an abolitionist and would allow Harriet to occasionally rest at his home with escaped slaves so they could take a break overnight. In 1858 after the Civil War had ended, William Seaward sold Harriet seven acres of land and a home, she made the house a home for the elderly who were African American. The home was called the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged. Unfortunately, Harriet couldn’t keep the house. She could not afford to pay the taxes any longer so she donated it to an African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Her friends, family and admirers tried to help her pay for the home but they could not afford for a long amount of time.

The long life of Harriet Tubman ended in 1913. The cause of her death was Pneumonia, but before that she was experiencing very bad head pains from a previous head injury when she was a child. She had to go to a hospital to end the pains and undergo brain surgery. A few years later she died at the age of ninety-six. She was buried with military honors in a gravesite at the Auburn’s Fort Hill Cemetery.

In conclusion, Harriet Tubman was one of the most inspirational, honorable, and bravest woman there is. She risked her life to save hundreds of stranger’s lives. Her actions helped so many people and she never had to, she chose to. Through her clever techniques she became one of the most successful and best abolitionist there ever was. She is so honorable that she may even be put on the twenty-dollar bill.

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The Life and Activism of Harriet Tubman, an American Abolitionist and Humanitarian. (2022, Oct 04). Retrieved February 6, 2023 , from

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