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Feb. 11, 2005

Harriet Tubman

by Varun Gulati, Page Editor
Harriet Tubman, abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor.
Harriet Tubman, abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor.
Araminta Ross, born in Maryland around 1820, worked both as a house slave and a field worker for a family in Dorchester County. Ross was an advocate for slaves' rights and was even hit at one point by a brick while protecting a fellow field worker. As a result, Ross had to deal with a condition that sent her into bouts of deep sleep, presumably narcolepsy, for the rest of her life. In 1844, Ross married John Tubman and took his last name while changing her first to Harriet.

Tubman ran away from her slave plantation one night in 1849 with the assistance of a white woman. Following the North Star, she reached Philadelphia, where she met William Still, who introduced her to the Underground Railroad. Tubman returned to the south three times to rescue her sister, brother and husband in her first, second and third trips respectively. Upon arriving in Maryland for the third time, she discovered her husband had left her for another woman, but she still continued to free other slaves to bring them north.

Tubman made many trips to the South and developed techniques to help her during her journey across the Underground Railroad. For instance, if any of her "passengers" wanted to turn back or leave the journey, she threatened to shoot them with a gun. By 1856, Tubman was wanted in the South for a $40,000 reward, but she still befriended abolitionists, some white, and attended anti-slavery meetings.

In 19 trips to the South, Tubman freed over 300 slaves as a "conductor" of the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War, she also served as a spy, nurse and soldier. A strong, dedicated woman, Tubman was dubbed as "Moses" by Fredrick Douglass. She later died in 1913, but now, a boat, plaque and stamp bear Tubman's honorable name.

Information has been compiled from and PBS.

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