Harriet Tubman, Underground Railroad conductor
by Nancy Nickerson
Armanita Greene was born into slavery on a Maryland plantation in 1820 or 1821. She later took her mother’s name, “Harriet”. She was forced to work at the age of five. Harriet was a very smart and strong-willed individual. When she was 13, her head was accidentally injured by a rock that was thrown at someone else, causing her to experience blackouts throughout her life.
In 1844, Harriet married John Tubman, a free black man. She was allowed to sleep in his cabin at night, but her slavery continued.
A few years later the plantation owner died. She knew she would be sold to the even harsher conditions of the deep South if she did not escape. She made her way on foot to Pennsylvania, some 90 miles, stopping at churches and aided by other sympathizers in the network known as the Underground Railroad.
She worked hard for two years, saving money to return to Maryland for her sister and her two children. Soon she was making regular trips, each one riskier than the last. She had shrewd planning skills and always chose a different route and used disguises to avoid being caught. There were rewards totaling $40,000 offered for her arrest, but she was never caught.
During the Civil War, she worked as a nurse and scout for the North. She was honored more than once by the Union Army, although she did not receive a pension for years. Eventually she led about 300 people to freedom in Canada and became known as the “Moses of Her People”.
In her later years, she continued to serve others by establishing a home for the elderly in upstate New York, where she died, in poverty, in 1913. The Harriet Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Colored People in Auburn is now a museum.
Harriet Tubman was an extraordinary woman who, despite physical hardship and her own lack of education, dedicated her life to saving the lives of others. She is a hero to those she rescued and to millions who never met her, including Julia Abel.