Heralded as the "Moses" of her people, Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman became a legend during her lifetime, leading approximately 300 slaves to freedom during a decade of freedom work. Denied any real childhood or formal education, Tubman labored in physically demanding jobs as a woodcutter, a field hand, and in lifting and loading barrels of flour. Although she had heard of kind masters, she never experienced one, and she vowed from an early age that she would strive to emancipate her people. In 1844, at age 24, she married John Tubman, a freeman, and in the summer of 1849 she decided to make her escape from slavery. At the last minute, her husband refused to leave with her, so she set out by herself with only the North Star to serve as her guide, making her way to freedom in Pennsylvania. A year later, she returned to Baltimore to rescue her sister, then began guiding others to freedom. Travel became more dangerous with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, but she was not deterred, despite rewards offered by slaveowners for her capture totaling $40,000.
Tubman's heroism was further highlighted by her activities between 1862 and 1865, when she was sent to the South to serve as a spy and a scout for the Union Army. Her gift for directions and knowledge of geography remained an asset as she explored the countryside in search of Confederate fortifications. Although she receive official commendation from Union officers, she was never paid for the services she rendered the government.
After the war she returned to Auburn, New York, working to establish a home for indigent aged blacks, and in 1869 she married her second husband, a Union soldier. She became involved in a number of causes, including the women's suffrage movement. Her death brought obituaries that demonstrated her fame throughout the United States and in Europe. She was buried with military rites, with Booker T. Washington serving as funeral speaker.
Known as the "Moses" of her people, Harriet Tubman created an Underground Railroad during the times of slavery that brought 300 people to freedom. In 1844 at the age of 24, she ...