January 22, 2014
From the Inkwell of: Bartholomew J. Worthington III
Born - Unknown, 1820
Died - March 10, 1913
The woman who would become one the the abolitionist movement's greatest champions, known as "Moses", was born a slave in Maryland. As one of the nine children of the family, Harriet's birth name was Araminta Harriet Ross.
Her family was broken apart when she was still young, and throughout her early years, several violent incidents at the hands of her slave masters would leave her with a range of permanent physical injuries. Over the course of her life, Harriet would suffer from narcoleptic episodes, severe headaches and seizures.
Harriet would come of age during a period when many of the African American residents of Maryland's eastern shore were free people. She herself married a free Black man, John Tubman in 1844, though as was the custom of the time, any children they would have had would have been slaves, since it was the mother's status that was conferred to her offspring.
After the death of her owner in 1849, Harriet feared that her family would be broken apart by the new owners, so on September 17, 1849 she left Maryland with two of her brothers. At some point in the journey, both of her brothers would become nervous and decided to return to the plantation. Harriet would accompany them "home" safely, and set out to become free on her own.
She would utilize the resources of the secret network know as the Underground Railroad to complete the 90 mile trip to Philadelphia in the free state of Pennsylvania. Upon discovering her escape, a notice posted in a local paper offered $300 for her capture and return.
Harriet's story could have ended right there and it would have been remarkable in its own right. But what elevated her to near legendary status, even during her lifetime, was what she would accomplish once she had attained her freedom.
Not content to simply enjoy her own free status, Harriet would return to various states in the slave holding South to rescue her family members and other slaves. By 1860, she would make a total of no less than 19 trips as a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad. She rescued her brothers, sisters, elderly parents, niece and scores of others. Her knowledge of the local terrain combined with her indomitable will and her trust in her dependable pistol would sustain Harriet through her numerous forays behind enemy lines. She was known for telling slaves in her group, "You'll be free or die." Harriet never lost a charge, and by 1856, the small nondescript woman with no distinctive features had a bounty of an astounding $40,000 on her head.
During the Civil War, Harriet remained active, serving as a nurse, an armed scout and a spy for the Union. When she led the Combahee River Raid, a military excursion that would free over 700 South Carolina slaves, Harriet became the first woman in American history to lead an armed military campaign.
After the war, Harriet settled in Auburn, New York. She would remarry and even adopt a baby girl. Never the picture of health, Harriet "Moses" Tubman would succumb to pneumonia in 1913 surrounded by her friends and family members.
“I freed thousands of slaves, and could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.”