The Life of Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman is a towering figure in American history — but you might not even know how much she truly accomplished.

The Life and Legacy of Harriet Tubman

She was born into slavery as Araminta “Minty” Ross. Like many slaves, the exact date of her birth is unknown. She grew up on a Maryland plantation with eight siblings. At 12, she was struck in the head by a lead weight thrown by an angry slave owner. For the rest of her life she felt the effects of brain damage.

Around 1844, she married John Tubman a free black man and changed her name to Harriet to honor her mother. In 1849, her owner died, and she decided to flee. She made it 90 miles north to Pennsylvania using the secret network known as The Underground Railroad. After her escape she formed her own Underground Railroad network and helped guide dozens more slaves to freedom. By 1860, she had made 19 trips back to slave country to rescue people.

During the U.S. Civil War, she worked with the Union Army as a scout, a nurse and even a spy. In one of her most significant accomplishments, Tubman helped lead the 1863 raid on Combahee River. In 1908, she helped open The Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged — a center to care for people with brain conditions.

She has a legacy not only in terms of freedom of inspired enslaved people, not only in terms of African descended communities in the United States, but for reform more generally, for women’s rights, and she stands as a symbol of liberty in so many ways, of democracy in so many ways in terms of really sort of taking it upon herself to affect change.

She died in 1913 and was buried in New York with military honors after a life of activisim, fighting for your rights, and changing the world for generations to come.