Harriet Tubman

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Harriet Tubman 

The slave who escaped and helped hundreds of other slaves to escape

Harriet Tubman (1822-1913) was an American abolitionist and political activist. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and subsequently made some 13 missions to rescue approximately 70 enslaved people, including family and friends,[2] using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. During the American Civil War, she served as an armed scout and spy for the Union Army. In her later years, Tubman was an activist in the movement for women’s suffrage.

Harriet Tubman 

The slave who escaped and helped hundreds of other slaves to escape 

I escaped from slavery in the south of the USA. I then helped hundreds of other slaves to escape to the north of the USA and Canada. I also freed hundreds of slaves who wanted to fight in the Civil War. 

My parents were slaves for the Brodess family in Maryland, USA. I was the fifth of nine children. At the age of 6, I started work as a nursemaid for another family. After that I had to work in the woods and fields. Our owners did not think of us as people. For them, we were like animals or machines. If we did something wrong, they hit us or punished us in horrible ways. 

In 1831, at the age of 11, I started to do the same work as the adult slaves. Every day we had to work for many hours in the fields. Around this time, I received an injury, which I never forgot. I refused to stop a slave who was escaping. The slave’s owner threw a metal weight at the slave, but it hit me on the head. It hurt a lot and this injury gave me headaches for the rest of my life. 

In 1849, I was brave and tried to escape. I was married by then, but my marriage was very unhappy and I hated the thought of another year of slavery. Two of my brothers agreed to come with me. We wanted to reach the north of the USA, where slavery was illegal. I could live there as a free woman. 

We made good progress towards the north, but then we heard some bad news. Our owner was offering $300 to anyone who caught us. My brothers became frightened and we decided to return to Maryland. We were punished when we returned, but I still wanted to escape. 

A short time later, I escaped again. This time I went alone. I travelled at night along quiet roads and paths. Some kind people helped me on the way. They gave me food and a place to sleep. Finally, I arrived in the city of Philadelphia in the north. The journey was long and difficult, but it felt wonderful to be free at last. 

In Philadelphia, I got a job and began to earn money. I missed my parents and my brothers and sisters. I was free and I wanted my family to be free, too. Maybe I could help them to escape? 

In 1850, I received some bad news. My niece and her daughters were in danger. Their owner wanted to sell them and they didn’t want to go to different families. I decided to return to Maryland to free them. I had to help them to escape. We travelled at night and used the stars to find our way to the north. 

After helping my niece and her daughters, I helped many other slaves to escape. I offered to help my husband, John Tubman, too, but he didn’t want to leave the south. He didn’t want to be with me any more, so our marriage ended. 

Soon, a new law made things a lot more difficult for me. It became illegal to help a slave to escape in the USA. I had to find a new route – to Canada, where slavery was illegal. 

In 1857, I went on a very special journey to help my parents. They weren’t slaves any more, but their life in the south was very difficult. They were very happy to see me again and wanted to go with me to Canada. Our journey was very slow and difficult because my parents were old. We had a big celebration when we finally arrived in Ontario, Canada. 

In 1861, the American Civil War started. The Confederates from the south wanted slavery to continue. The Unionists from the north wanted slavery to become illegal. I joined the Union Army, which fought for the north. An army captain, James Montgomery, heard about me. He discovered that I helped slaves to escape before the war. And he wanted my help. He wanted slaves to fight for freedom in the Union Army. I took a team of spies to the south and found slaves who wanted to join us. It was dangerous work, but we were very successful. On one trip, 700 slaves agreed to escape and they became soldiers. 

On 9th April 1865, the war ended. What could I do with my life now? I decided to fight for equal rights for black people and for women. I spoke at public meetings and I tried to help black people who were poor and old. 

In 1896, I bought some land and, in 1903, I gave the land to my church. I wanted the church to start a home for black people who were poor and elderly. In 1908, the home opened for the first time. 

As I looked back at my life, I was very proud. I was happy that I helped so many people to find freedom. 

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