Her name deserves to be handed down to posterity, side by side with the names of Jeanne D’Arc, Grace Darling and Florence Nightingale, for not one of these women, noble and brave as they were, has shown more courage, and power of endurance, in facing danger and death to relieve human suffering, than this poor black woman . . . (4).
In 1850, Harriet Tubman succeeded with her first attempt in freeing slaves from the South.
Nineteen more attempts would be performed during the time she worked in the Underground Railroad of the 1850’s. Her pursuit of abolitionism would continue with her efforts in the Civil War as a nurse and scout. Harriet’s work in the Underground Railroad and as a scout for the North in the Civil War made her a hero against slavery.
Araminta Ross was either born in 1820 or 1821 on a plantation in Dorchester County, Maryland. Records were not kept of slave births so her birthdate is a mystery. She was a fortunate slave girl because she had her mother by her side to raise her.
It was common to have a slave mother and her children split apart by the slave trade. Araminta had barely any clothes to wear; usually just a soiled cotton dress. She slept as close to the fire as possible on cold nights and sometimes stuck her toes into the smoldering ashes to avoid frostbite. Cornmeal was her main source of nutrition and occasionally meat of some kind as her family had the privilege to hunt and fish. Most of her early childhood was spent with her grandmother who was too old for slave labor.
At age six, Araminta was old enough to be considered able to work.
She did not work in the fields though. Edward Brodas, her master, lent her to a couple who first put her to work weaving. When she slacked off at this job the couple gave her the duty of checking muskrat traps. Araminta caught the measles while doing this work. The couple thought she was incompetent and took her back to Brodas. When she got well, she was taken in by a woman as a housekeeper and baby-sitter.
Araminta was whipped during the work here and was sent back to Brodas after eating one of the woman’s sugar cubes.
As was the custom on all plantations, when she turned eleven, she started wearing a bright cotton bandana around her head indicating she was no longer a child. She was also no longer known by her “basket name”, Araminta. Now she would be called Harriet (McClard 21, 26-28, 29-33).
In 1844, Harriet Ross married a well-built man with a ready laugh. John Tubman was a free slave unlike Harriet.
Since she was a slave, she knew there could be a chance that she could be sold and her marriage would be split apart. Harriet dreamed of traveling north. There, she would be free and would not have to worry about having her marriage split up by the slave trade. But, John did not want her to go north. He said he was fine where he was and that there was no reason for moving north. She said she would go by herself.
He replied with questions like “When it’s nighttime, how will you know which way is north?” and “What will you eat?” He told her that if she ran off, he would tell her master. She did not believe him until she saw his face and then she knew he meant it. Her goal to achieve freedom was too large for her to give up though. So she left her husband and traveled north with her brothers (Petry 80-87, 90).
Harriet hitched a ride with a woman and her husband who were passing by. They were abolitionists and kind enough to give her directions to safe houses and names of people who would help her cross the Mason-Dixon line.
The couple took her to Philadelphia. Here, Harriet got a job where she saved her pay to help free slaves. She also met William Still. (Taylor 35-39, 40-41).
William Still was one of the Underground Railroad’s busiest “station masters.” He was a .