Tubman, Harriet

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Tubman, Harriet,

c.1820–1913, American abolitionist, b. Dorchester co., Md. Born into slavery, she escaped to Phildelphia in 1849, and subsequently became one of the most successful "conductors" on the Underground RailroadUnderground Railroad,
in U.S. history, loosely organized system for helping fugitive slaves escape to Canada or to areas of safety in free states. It was run by local groups of Northern abolitionists, both white and free blacks.
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. Returning to the South more than a dozen times, she is generally credited with leading more than 300 slaves (including her parents and brother) to freedom, sometimes forcing the timid ahead with a loaded revolver. She became a speaker on the anti-slavery lecture circuit and a friend of the principal abolitionists, and John BrownBrown, John,
1800–1859, American abolitionist, b. Torrington, Conn. He spent his boyhood in Ohio. Before he became prominent in the 1850s, his life had been a succession of business failures in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York.
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 almost certainly confided his Harpers Ferry plan to her. During the Civil War, Tubman attached herself to the Union forces in coastal South Carolina, serving as a nurse, cook, laundress, scout, and spy, and in 1863 she played an important part in a raid that resulted in the freeing of more than 700 slaves. At Auburn, N.Y., her home for many years after the war, the Cayuga co. courthouse contains a tablet in her honor.


See biographies by S. Bradford (1869, new ed. 1961), E. Conrad (1942), C. Clinton (2004), J. M. Humez (2004), and K. C. Larson (2004).

Tubman, Harriet (b. Ross)

(c. 1820–1913) abolitionist; born in Bucktown, Md. Reared in slavery, she married a free black, John Tubman, in 1844. He opposed her plans to flee north, so she escaped alone via the Underground Railroad (1849); over the next decade she led nearly 300 Maryland slaves to safety, including several siblings and her elderly parents. Known as "the Moses of her people," she was devoutly religious and a believer in decisive action. She helped John Brown organize his 1859 raid on Harper's Ferry, Va., but was prevented by illness from accompanying him. During the Civil War she repeatedly went behind enemy lines to spy for the Union and recruit slaves to fight in the army. In her later years, living in Auburn, N.Y., she helped support relatives and other former slaves and raised money for freedmen's schools and a home for elderly blacks.