Harriet Tubman Biography

Harriet Tubman was an African American abolitionist who led hundreds of enslaved blacks to freedom. This biography of Harriet Tubman provides detailed information about her childhood, life, achievements, works & timeline.

Quick Facts

Born: 1820

Nationality: American

Famous: Quotes By Harriet Tubman Feminists

Died At Age: 93

Born Country: United States

Born in: Maryland, USA

Famous as: Abolitionist

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Spouse/Ex-: John Tubman, Nelson Davies

father: Ben

mother: Harriet Greene

siblings: Benjamin, Henry, Linah, Mariah Ritty, Moses, Rachel, Robert, Sophia

children: Gertie Davies

Died on: March 10, 1913

place of death: Auburn

U.S. State: Maryland

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Harriet Tubman, the great African American abolitionist who rescued hundreds of slaves and led them to freedom was born into slavery as Araminta Harriet Ross. She escaped slavery and made it her life’s mission to help other enslaved blacks escape their miserable fate and lead a life of dignity. She had a very tough childhood as she was born to parents who were bonded slaves. As a small girl she was made to do backbreaking chores and hard work, and also physically assaulted and beaten up. Once she was hit on her head so hard that she suffered from seizures, narcoleptic attacks and severe headaches all through her life. But, she was never disillusioned by the numerous problems in her life and found her calling in helping people escape slavery. She also worked as a cook, nurse and a spy for the Union Army during the American Civil War and became the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war when she led several hundreds of slaves in the Combahee River Raid. She played an active role in the women’s suffrage movement in New York and spent her later years tending to her family and other people in need.

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Childhood & Early Life
  • She was born to slave parents Harriet Green and Ben Ross in Maryland. Her mother was a cook owned by Mary Brodess while her father, a skilled woodsman was held by Anthony Thompson. Records suggest that her parents had a total of nine children.
  • Many of her siblings were sold off by her parents’ owners to other slave owners. Her mother resisted and tried her best to stop the owners from selling her children. Her mother’s courage deeply influenced Harriet’s beliefs.
  • At the age of six she was considered old enough to work and was hired out as a nursemaid; her duties consisted of taking care of a baby. Her owners beat her frequently.
  • She was sent to work at a plantation after she attained the age of 11. With age she grew bigger and stronger and was assigned more arduous work like driving oxen, forest work, hauling logs and plowing.
  • She worked at a dry-goods store as an adolescent where she was hit on the head with a heavy weight by a white overseer. This resulted in a severe head injury and she suffered from seizures and headaches throughout her life.
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Later Years
  • She became ill in 1849 because of which her value as a slave diminished. Her owner Edward Brodess was trying to sell her but could not find a buyer. Her owner died the same year and her risk of being sold increased.
  • She along with two of her brothers escaped in 1849. But, within weeks of their escape, her brothers decided to return and she was forced to return with them.
  • She soon escaped alone making use of a network known as the Underground Railroad that comprised free and enslaved blacks and white abolitionists and activists. She covered a journey of nearly 90 miles by foot to finally reach Philadelphia, her destination.
  • Even though she was free now, she often thought of her family and others in Maryland who were still enslaved. Around this time the U.S. Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 which made it illegal for any citizen to help slaves in escaping.
  • She made several trips back to Maryland and helped rescue several of her relatives whom she safely brought back to Philadelphia. She became acquainted with the abolitionist Thomas Garrett and is believed to have worked with him.
  • Escaped slaves began migrating to Canada after the Fugitive Slave Law was passed as it made the northern U.S. very dangerous for them. Tubman guided a group of 11 fugitives northward and probably stopped at the home of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
  • Over a period of 11 years she returned to Maryland repeatedly and rescued around 300 slaves including several of her own family members.
  • The American Civil war broke out in 1861 and Tubman joined the Union Army. She served as a nurse and tended to soldiers suffering from diseases like dysentery and smallpox. The work was physically exhausting and she also faced financial problems.
  • She became the first woman to lead an armed assault during the American Civil War when she guided a group of over 700 slaves in the Combahee River Raid.
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  • During her later years, she worked to promote women’s suffrage and cared for her elderly parents.
Major Works
  • She was a highly respected abolitionist who had helped guide hundreds of slaves to their freedom. She played a very important role in the civil war caring for sick people and in directing the Combahee River Raid. She is regarded as one of the most important civilians in the history of America before the Civil War.
Awards & Achievements
  • The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in her honour in 1978.
  • The Empire State Federation of Women’s Clubs erected the gravestone for Harriet Tubman in 1937 which was eventually listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • She married John Tubman, a free black in 1844. However, he did not support her dream of escaping to Philadelphia. Therefore, she had to leave him behind and escape. When she returned to take her husband with her, she discovered that he had remarried.
  • She married a Civil War veteran named Nelson Davis in 1869 and together they adopted a baby girl.
  • A deeply religious lady, she was involved with The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. She donated a piece of land to the church for building an old age home for destitute coloured people.
  • With age, the problems she suffered due to her childhood head injury became more severe. She died of pneumonia in 1913.
  • The television miniseries, ‘A Woman Called Mosses’ was based on this abolitionist’s life.

See the events in life of Harriet Tubman in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Harriet Tubman Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com
Last Updated
- February 27, 2020
Harriet Tubman

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