|Maya Angelou reading Harriet Tubman (1 MB mp3)
From Freedom Archives audio archives
Photo: Scott Braley
Harriet Ross (1820–1913) was born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland. Given the names of her two parents, both held in slavery, she was of purely African ancestry. She was raised under harsh conditions, and subjected to whippings even as a small child. At the age of 12 she was seriously injured by a blow to the head, inflicted by a white overseer for refusing to assist in tying up a man who had attempted escape. At the age of 25, she married John Tubman, a free African American. Five years later, fearing she would be sold South, she made her escape.
Harriet Tubman became known as the "Moses of her people". Over the course of 10 years, and at great personal risk, she led hundreds of slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad, a secret network of safe houses where runaway slaves could stay on their journey North to freedom. She later became a leader in the abolitionist movement. After freeing herself from slavery, Harriet Tubman returned to Maryland to rescue other members of her family. In all she is believed to have lead approximately 300 persons to freedom in the North. The tales of her exploits reveal her highly spiritual nature, as well as a grim determination to protect her charges and those who aided them. She always expressed confidence that God would aid her efforts, and threatened to shoot any of her charges who thought to turn back.
After the close of the Civil War, Harriet Tubman returned to Auburn, NY. There she married Nelson Davis, and lived in a home they built on South Street, near the original house. This house still stands on the property, and serves as a home for the Resident Manager of the Harriet Tubman House.
Only twelve miles from Seneca Falls, Tubman helped Auburn to remain a center of activity in support of women's rights. In 1908, she built the wooden structure that served as her home for the aged and indigent. Here she worked, and was herself cared for in the period before her death in 1913.