Escape from Slavery
In March of 1849, Tubman’s slaveholder, Edward Brodess, died. Tubman new in order for Brodess’s wife to pay her husband’s debts, she needed to sell some of her slaves. Tubman did not want to be sold South. In the fall of 1849, she escaped from slavery alone, and found freedom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In Philadelphia, Tubman made connections and found support among other white and black abolitionists. Also, she became involved in the women’s suffrage movement. Although Harriet Tubman found her freedom, she was separated from her family. Between 1850 and 1860, Tubman returned to the Eastern shore of Maryland 13 times and freed 70 people, who were her family and friends so they can all be free together as a family.
Tubman’s work as a liberator continued even into the Civil War (1861-1865). Before the war started, Tubman caught the attention of several white politicians because of her contacts with well-known black and white abolitionists in the North. Massachusetts Governor, John Andrews, heard of Tubman’s successes freeing slaves on the Underground Railroad out of Maryland, and taking them North into Philadelphia and St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. Andrew believed Tubman’s knowledge and skills she gained traveling the marshlands in Maryland’s Eastern shore would be useful in the marshlands on the coastal region of South Carolina, since the two landscapes were similar.
Tubman arrived in Port Royal, South Carolina in 1862 to help Union generals recruit black troops as a Union spy, and nurse wounded soldiers. There, she was able to weaken the Confederacy when she planned and led an armed raid along the Combahee River on June 1, 1863, becoming the first woman to do so in U.S. military history. Tubman, Colonel James Montgomery, and the 2nd Carolina Colored Infantry burned several plantations, destroyed Confederate supply lines, and freed 750 slaves along the Combahee River.
Life in Auburn, New York
In 1859, Harriet Tubman bought a house in Fleming, New York from Senator William H. Seward, and brought members of her family inside her new home. Fleming and Auburn, New York became her community. After the war slavery was abolished, but women and African Americans continued their fight for equality and voting rights. Tubman became a co-founding member of the National Association of Colored Women that demanded equality and suffrage for African American women. After 1869, Harriet married Civil War veteran Nelson Davis, and they adopted their daugher Gertie. On March 10, 1913, Harriet Tubman died of pneumonia and was buried in Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn.
Throughout her life, Harriet Tubman was a fighter. Tubman’s legacy continues in society years after her death. During World War II a ship was named in her honor, a statue was erected in her honor in Arubi, Ghana, her image appeared on U.S. postage stamps, and will appear on the new twenty dollar bill in the year 2020. Tubman’s story speaks compassion and courage that continue to touch the lives of people.
Horton, Lois E, Harriet Tubman and the Fight for Freedom.
Larson, Kate Clifford, Bound for the Promised Land.
Larson, Kate Clifford, http://harriettubmanbiography.com/
Learn more about Harriet Tubman's life in Auburn, New York from our sister park.