Sunday, April 12, 2009

Harriet Tubman: Road to Freedom

During the period of slavery in the United States, the fight for freedom and equality seemed to be a war that would for the blacks. One of the individuals who had a significant impact on the fight for freedom was Harriet Tubman, most well known for her contribution to the success of the Underground Railroad.

Born as Araminta Ross, Harriet Tubman was abolitionist, Humanitarian, and also a spy for the Union throughout the American Civil War. The exact date of her birth is unknown, though the general year in which she was born is known to be circa 1820 in Dorchester County, Maryland. Throughout her early life, and as a child, she was obviously, like nearly all slaves, whipped and beaten by her numerous owners while serving as a slave. She also had the unfortunate luck of enduring the years of her life from childhood up through her death suffering various medical complications due to blunt object trauma to her head. A fellow slave had left the fields without permission from his owner who, in retaliation, picked up a weight and hurtled it toward the slave. Tubman had refused to help stop the slave and as a result, the weight struck her in the head (it fell short of its target, the other slave). The various medical problems she obtained from this injury powerful visionary and dream activity (Wikipedia - Harriet Tubman), headaches, seizures, and hyperinsomnia. Being a very religious woman, she claimed her dreams and visions to be 'premonitions from God'. She has be neglected the care that she needed because her owner saw her as being "not worth a sixpence" and was promptly send back into the fields to work two days later.

In 1844 she married John Tubman, a freed black man and took his last name. She also changed her first name to Harriet (from Araminta) in honor of her mother. Later, in 1849, Tubman managed to escape from slavery to Philadelphia, though later returned in order to help her family to freedom as well. She achieved her freedom via the Underground Railroad; a combination of covert roads, tunnels, and houses ran by freed [former] slaves, Quakers, and abolitionists.

Her journey to freedom was not an easy one and quite dangerous as well. In order to avoid capture from 'slave catchers', those who hunted down slaves in order to collect the rewards, she primarily traveled and night and was guided by the North Star, however, the exact route that she took during this journey is not certain. Upon her arrival in Philadelphia, she soon began having thoughts about her family that she had left behind. During her time in Philadelphia, she served in a number of small jobs in order to make some income and save her earnings. Later, she was forced to head into Canada due to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 passed by the US Congress which allowed law enforcement officials to hunt down and capture escaped slaves, even those who resided in states that had outlawed slavery.

Eventually Tubman returned to the place in which she has fled from—she had received news that her niece and niece's children were set to sold in Cambridge, Maryland. She arrived in Baltimore with the arrangement for her brother-in-law, Tom Tubman who was a freed black, to help hide her until the date for the sale of her family arrived. Her niece's husband , John Bowley, is the one who placed the winning bid for his wife. As he caused a distraction by making fake arrangements to pay for his win, his wife and her children fled to a safe house nearby. As nightfall came along, Bowley transported the family by log canoe to Baltimore, later meeting up with Tubman who then lead the family to freedom in Philadelphia.

Months later, when spring arrived, Tubman returned to Maryland and aided many other families on their venture to the north, including her brother Moses. In time she also managed to guide her elderly parents as well as much of the rest of her family to safety while earning the nickname 'Moses' based off her guidance to so many to freedom.

In 1861, when the Civil war broke out, Tubman assisted the Union forces. She provided as a nurse in Port Royal where she made cure and remedies using plants and helping officers with dysentery. She also served as a cook and as a spy for the Union army.

Tubman played a huge role as being the first woman who led an armed assault, more specifically, the Combahee River Raid. During this raid, over 700 slaves were rescued. She made frequent visits to Auburn visiting her parents and family. Even though Tubman served the Union for many years, she never any pay for her service and it was not until 1899 until she received her pension for her service from the US government. After the war, Tubman returned the Auburn where she spent the rest of her years until her death.

Tubman was an activist when it came to social issues, one of which was her contribution to the fight for women's rights. On March 10, 1913, Harriet Tubman died due to pneumonia roughly around the age of 93. She has become an important figure in American history through all of her accomplishments.