|Born|| 1820 |
Dorchester County, Maryland
Harriet Ross, later known as Harriet Tubman, was an escaped slave and abolitionist who played an important role in the Underground Railroad.
According to Christianity Today: "Tubman's friends and fellow abolitionists claimed that the source of her strength came from her faith in God as deliverer and protector of the weak. "I always tole God," she said, "'I'm gwine [going] to hole stiddy on you, an' you've got to see me through.'"
Harriet's Life as a Slave
Harriet began to work as a house servant around the age of 6, and by the time she was 13 she was working in the fields. Harriet, like most slaves, was constantly abused. At the age of 13, she attempted to prevent another slave from being punished, and as a result had a two-pound iron weight thrown at her by the slave's chaser. The weight struck Harriet in the side of the head and caused her to suffer periodic blackouts for the rest of her life. In 1844, Harriet married a free black man, named John Tubman. Harriet remained a slave, but was allowed to live with him in his cabin.
Escape From Slavery
Like any other slave, Harriet lived in constant fear of being shipped off to the deep South. As a result, she decided to run away, hiking through ninety miles of swamps and woodlands. In 1849, Harriet finally reached Philadelphia. While working as a dishwasher to earn money, she made plans to save the rest of her family. She returned the next year and rescued her sister and her sister's family. After returning to rescue her brothers, she went to her husband to see if he would come with her. John had remarried and refused to come with her. In 1857, Harriet rescued her parents and settled them in Auburn, New York.
Life as a Free Black Woman
Although Harriet was wanted at the price of $40,000, she was a master of disguise and even a former owner did not recognize her. She was nicknamed the "Moses of her people" from the Bible story of Moses leading the Israelites from slavery (Exodus chapters 1-35). Harriet became a spy for the union army when the Civil War began. Harriet later worked in Washington as a government nurse. She did not receive a government pension for more than 30 years. When the war ended, Harriet returned to her parents in Auburn. The profits of a book titled Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman by Sara Bradford, kept Harriet from poverty. Harriet was married again in 1870 to a man named Nelson Davis. They were happily married until, 18 years later, Nelson died. Harriet purchased land in 1896 to build a home for sick and needy blacks. Unable to raise enough money for the home, she gave the land to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. They completed the home in 1908, and Harriet soon after, moved into it. She died in 1913 from pneumonia. She was 93 years old.
In commemoration of Tubman's life and contributions toward ending slavery in the United States, US Treasury secretary James Lew announced on April 20, 2016, that Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill. (The original plan was to have Tubman replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill -- Hamilton being one of two non-presidents along with Benjamin Franklin to be featured on United States currency -- but the popularity of the Hamilton musical resulted in the change.)
The Trump administration did not move forward with the effort to dishonor Jackson, pointing out that putting Tubman on the twenty-dollar bill was an act of “pure political correctness."