Harriet Tubman (c. 1822-1913), An American Hero

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Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman. is one of the more famous American Heroes, ranking third to Betsy Ross and Paul Revere. Born into slavery as Araminta “Minty” Ross, she was the second generation of her line to be enslaved. It’s impossible to know for certain, but Tubman herself said that she came from the Ashanti people of Africa, from what is now Ghana. Later Araminta took her mother’s name Harriet.

Harriet became a defiant slave and would become one of America’s most important Abolitionists. She received a head injury when she refused to hold a slave down so his master could beat him. The master threw a two pound weight and struck Tubman in the head. For the rest of her life she would have epileptic seizures from time to time, which she claimed allowed her to communicate with God.

In 1849, Tubman escaped from slavery, as she made us of a secret network called the Underground Railroad, which was composed of free and enslaved men and women, and many abolitionists of all races. The Quakers were very active abolitionists at the time and many worked within the Underground Railroad. Tubman would recall the Quakers who aided her during her escape to Pennsylvania, a free state.

Her freedom was soon put into jeopardy however when the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was passed. This made free states help capture and turn over run away slaves to their owners. The runaways now made their way for Canada, where slavery was outlawed. Harriet soon began working to aide her family and other slaves to escape to Canada. It is said that she aided over 300 slaves in their escape. She received the Nickname “Moses.”

She also received the nickname “General Tubman” by Union General, Benjamin Butler, as she helped slaves escape during the Civil War and worked as a nurse for injured Union Soldiers. She also scouted and spied for the Union. One could say that she joined the Union Army and that she can also be considered a female War Hero. She also worked with other greats such as the insurgent John Brown and famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass, all of whom deeply respected Tubman.

After the Civil War, Tubman lived and pretty long life. She even survived brain surgery in an attempt to correct her ordeal she received from the head injury when she was younger. Tubman died at the age of about 93, poor but free.

Harriet Tubman is portrayed by stage actress Leslie McCurdy, in the play “The Spirit of Harriet Tubman.” HBO is in the works of creating a period film, starring Viola Davis, as Harriet Tubman.

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