Harriet Tubman

by Nancy Nickerson

Canada is not merely a neighbor of Negroes. Deep in our history of struggle for freedom, Canada was the North Star.

Martin Luther King, Jr., CBC Massey Lectures, 1967

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.

Page created on 4/1/2013 5:16:03 PM

Last edited 1/7/2020 1:57:35 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Harriet Tubman - A biography.
Valley Project - The Valley Project offers an in-depth study of two neighboring communities on opposite sides of the Civil War.
Africans in America - "The Africans in America Web site is a companion to Africans in America, a six-hour public television series. The Web site chronicles the history of racial slavery in the United States..."

Extra Info

Amatul H. Hannan from Cambridge, Mass., wrote:
My hero is Harriet Tubman because she took her freedom into her own hands - a shining example of self-determination and faith, fueled by rugged endurance.

Many Thanks to Miss Julia Abel from Laguna Beach, Calif., for her participation in the "Lifesaver Hero" pages - I found her writing very interesting. As the Curator of United South End Settlements Harriet Tubman Gallery, I have access to our very interesting archives of information about sister Harriet, or "Moses," as she was called in her day. Did you know that 1998 was the 85th anniversary of her passing? She lived until March 10, 1913. Within her lifetime she freed her own parents and many many others from very dangerous and hardship-filled lives of slavery.

Here in Boston's South End at the Harriet Tubman House we had an exhibit by NEWOCA (New England Women Of Color Artists), where 20 artists created images, poems and other multimedia works to honor the memory of Harriet Tubman.

There are so many good reasons to count her among the great heros - epic black woman, intelligent and capable of great strategy and long term planning - we need more women like our good sister Harriet in this day and age!

Ms. Amatul Hannan, curator
USES Harriet Tubman Gallery
566 Columbus Ave
Boston, MA 02132

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Author Info

"My hero is Harriet Tubman because she helped the slaves gain freedom and saved many black peoples' lives. I am really interested in black history, and I chose this person because she was so dedicated to helping others without regard for herself. Harriet Tubman fought for what was right. Harriet Tubman is my hero."