Home Biography Biography of Harriet Tubman: A Journey to Freedom

Biography of Harriet Tubman: A Journey to Freedom

Biography of Harriet Tubman A Journey to Freedom

Biography of Harriet Tubman: A Journey to Freedom

Key Takeaway

Harriet Tubman, born into slavery, escaped and then helped hundreds of enslaved people gain freedom through the Underground Railroad. Her courage, determination, and contributions to the abolitionist movement and Civil War efforts are monumental. Tubman’s legacy continues to inspire generations in the fight for equality and justice.


  • Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in Maryland around 1820.
  • She escaped slavery in 1849 and became a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad.
  • Tubman made approximately 13 missions to rescue about 70 enslaved people.
  • She served as a spy, nurse, and cook during the Civil War.
  • After the war, Tubman was involved in the women’s suffrage movement.
  • Tubman’s efforts and legacy continue to inspire the fight for civil rights.
  • Her contributions were recognized posthumously with numerous honors and commemorations.

Biography of Harriet Tubman A Journey to Freedom

Early Life and Background

Harriet Tubman, originally named Araminta Ross, was born around 1820 in Dorchester County, Maryland. Her exact birth date is not known due to the lack of records, a common issue for those born into slavery. Tubman was one of nine children born to Harriet “Rit” Green and Ben Ross. Her parents were enslaved, and Harriet, along with her siblings, was destined to the same fate.

Childhood and Family Struggles

Harriet’s childhood was marked by hardship and suffering. She endured physical violence, which resulted in lifelong injuries, including a traumatic head injury caused by a heavy metal weight thrown by an overseer. This injury caused her to experience seizures and narcoleptic episodes for the rest of her life.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” — Harriet Tubman

Escape to Freedom

The Journey Begins

In 1849, Harriet decided to escape slavery after learning she was to be sold. Guided by her faith and aided by the clandestine network known as the Underground Railroad, Tubman made her way to Pennsylvania, a free state. The journey was perilous, but Tubman’s determination and resilience saw her through.

Becoming a Conductor

After reaching freedom, Tubman did not rest. Instead, she made it her mission to help others escape the bondage of slavery. She returned to the South about 13 times, rescuing approximately 70 enslaved people, including members of her own family.

Table 1: Harriet Tubman’s Rescue Missions

Year Number of Missions People Rescued
1850 1 3
1851 2 8
1852 1 7
1853 2 12
1854 1 5
1855 1 11
1856 2 10
1857 1 9
1858 2 5

The Underground Railroad

Structure and Operations

The Underground Railroad was neither underground nor a railroad. It was a secret network of safe houses and abolitionists who provided shelter, food, and guidance to escaping slaves. Conductors like Harriet Tubman played a critical role in guiding escapees from one safe house to another, often under the cover of night.

Key Elements:

  • Conductors: Guides who led the escapees.
  • Stations: Safe houses where escapees could rest.
  • Stationmasters: Those who ran the safe houses.
  • Passengers: Escaping slaves.

Table 2: Key Elements of the Underground Railroad

Element Description
Conductors Guides for the escapees
Stations Safe houses along the route
Stationmasters Operators of the safe houses
Passengers Enslaved people seeking freedom

Civil War Contributions

Spy, Nurse, and Cook

During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman expanded her fight for freedom by serving the Union Army in various capacities. She worked as a cook, nurse, and most notably, a spy. Tubman used her knowledge of covert operations from her time with the Underground Railroad to gather intelligence for the Union.

Notable Contributions:

  • Combahee River Raid: In 1863, Tubman led an armed expedition that resulted in the liberation of more than 700 enslaved people.
  • Nursing: Tubman provided medical care to wounded soldiers and freed slaves.

“I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.” — Harriet Tubman

Post-War Life and Legacy

Advocacy and Suffrage

After the Civil War, Harriet Tubman continued to fight for justice. She became involved in the women’s suffrage movement, working alongside prominent figures like Susan B. Anthony. Tubman traveled and spoke publicly about her experiences and the importance of women’s right to vote.

Later Years

In her later years, Tubman settled in Auburn, New York, on property she purchased from Senator William H. Seward. Despite her significant contributions, she faced financial difficulties and relied on her community for support.

Legacy and Honors:

  • Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged: Tubman established this home for elderly African Americans.
  • Recognition: Tubman received various honors posthumously, including having schools, roads, and buildings named after her.

Significant Commemorations:

  • National Historic Park: The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park was established in 2017 in Auburn, New York.
  • U.S. Currency: Plans were announced to feature Tubman on the $20 bill, reflecting her lasting impact on American history.

“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” — Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman’s Impact

Inspirational Figure

Harriet Tubman’s life and legacy serve as a powerful inspiration for many. Her courage, tenacity, and unwavering commitment to justice continue to motivate activists and individuals worldwide.

Lessons from Harriet Tubman’s Life:

  1. Bravery: Tubman’s fearless actions in the face of danger exemplify true courage.
  2. Determination: Despite numerous obstacles, Tubman’s determination never wavered.
  3. Selflessness: Her dedication to helping others achieve freedom underscores her selfless nature.
Modern Relevance

Harriet Tubman’s legacy is particularly relevant today as issues of racial injustice and inequality continue to be prominent. Her life story is a testament to the power of resilience and the impact one individual can have on the course of history.

“The Lord who told me to take care of my people meant for me to do it.” — Harriet Tubman


Harriet Tubman‘s extraordinary life journey from slavery to freedom, and her relentless pursuit of justice for others, cements her place as one of the most significant figures in American history. Her legacy is celebrated and honored for its profound impact on the fight for freedom and equality. Tubman’s story is a beacon of hope and a reminder of the enduring human spirit.


  1. Bradford, Sarah H. “Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her People.” 1886.
  2. Clinton, Catherine. “Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom.” 2004.
  3. Larson, Kate Clifford. “Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero.” 2004.
  4. National Park Service. “Harriet Tubman National Historical Park.” 2017.
  5. Bordewich, Fergus M. “Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America.” 2005.


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