Known as the Moses of the “Underground Railroad”, Harriet Tubman has been recognized as one of the nation’s leading African-American abolitionists.
Tubman was born to slave parents in Dorchester County, Maryland circa 1820 and escaped from slavery. Tubman suffered from a head wound early in her life and frequently had seizures, headaches, and visions. As a devout Christian, Tubman would often claim that her visions were revelations from God. Because of Tubman’s periodical illnesses, she was hired out to another plantation and she used that opportunity to escape to Philadelphia with her brothers from slavery on September 17, 1849.
She later continued to return home to Maryland to rescue the rest other family, and one group at a time, she would begin to create the network of the Underground Railroad, a series of antislavery activists and safe houses that aided in getting enslaved African-Americans to the lands of freedom. She always traveled by night and never lost a “passenger” in her trips because many people did not know that she, a woman, was leading slaves to safety. Even after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, a piece of legislation that required law officials in free states to aid in the recapturing of slaves, Tubman continued her work, taking fleeing African-Americans northwards into Canada where slavery was prohibited.
Tubman also was instrumental during the American Civil War. She worked as a cook, nurse, armed scout, and spy for the Union Army. She was the first woman to lead an armed expedition in war and helped liberate more than 700 slaves from the state of South Carolina. She retired back to her family home in Auburn, New York and became engaged with the women’s suffrage movement in the alter years of her life.