Harriet Tubman

Famous Slave

The Famous Slave Harriet Tubman: A Brief Synopsis

Harriet Tubman was an escaped slave, famed for leading over 70 slaves toward freedom via the Underground Railroad, a network of antislavery activists and safe houses. It was in this way that she undertook numerous missions to rescue her family and friends, enduring poverty so that she could spend her savings on the freedom of other slaves. She was also known for her suffragist activism in later years, promoting gender equality in Washington DC, New York and Boston at the turn of the twentieth century.

The Famous Slave Harriet Tubman: Date of Birth and Parents

Born approximately 1820-1821 in Maryland to Harriet and Benjamin Ross, Harriet Tubman was given the name Arminta by her parents. They were slavesowned by a master who was not unnecessarily unkind, however, Harriet Tubman was loaned out to others who caused permanent damage. The first person she was loaned to was known as "Miss Susan", who fed and clothed her slaves well but was quick to reprimand.

Escaped slave and Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman, the famous slave (public domain)

The Famous Slave Harriet Tubman: Treatment and Disability

Tasked with a long day of housework followed by rocking poorly babies to sleep for the night, according to Sarah H Bradford, author of 'Scenes in the life of Harriet Tubman', Harriet was whipped on the face and neck should her work be considered subpar or if the baby cried. At the age of 16 Harriet's new master threw a metal weight from weighing scales at an escaping slave. This instead struck Harriet Tubman who had been blocking the door, causing migraines, convulsions and visions throughout her life.


Name: Arminta Ross
AKA: Harriet Tubman, General Tubman
Birth: c.1821, Maryland
Death: 1913
Cause: Pneumonia
Famous for: Rescuing over seventy slaves from the south, leading them to safety in Canada, mostly on foot
Slave status: Escaped
Parents: Harriet Greene and Benjamin Ross
Siblings: Ben and Henry
Spouse: John Tubman, Nelson Davis M1869
Gertie (adopted)

The Famous Slave Harriet Tubman: Spouse and Escape

The sale of three of her sisters to a new slave owner on the death of her master in approximately 1847 prompted her escape with her younger brothers, but they took her back when they became afraid of the danger they faced ahead. Deciding to escape alone, she travelled only by night and followed the north star; finally arriving on free soil. However, the hazardous journey was to be repeated numerous times as she worked at various hotels in Philadelphia to fund her trips back to the South, freeing friends, family and other slaves. In 1851, Harriet Tubman returned to bring her husband North, a free man named John Tubman; however, she found that he had remarried.

Slave Harriet Tubman: Involvement with The Underground Railroad

The Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 made Harriet Tubman take the decision of escorting slaves to Canada as they were no longer safe in the North; passing by friends in disguise, separated and shepherded until they came together again at a meeting place. They would then stop at secret houses of those sympathetic to her cause; a network known as the Underground Railroad. Thomas Garrett wrote in 1868 that as to the best of his knowledge, no slave in her care had been arrested. 

Unable to read, she would hear others discussing posters rewarding thousands of dollars to anyone who would capture her, but despite the risks, she continued her work freeing slaves via the Underground Railroad; paying for the slaves food from her own savings, bringing it to them at night with a song which would warn them of any suspected danger. Harriet Tubman was said to be uncertain of the total journeys she had undertaken but recalled she had liberated slaves to Canada 11 times though her friends had believed her to have made nineteen trips back and forth in total. In the event that a slave changed their mind and wished to go back, she would brandish a pistol and make them continue their long journey in order to avoid the risk of secrets leaking back to the South.

The Famous Slave Harriet Tubman: Later Life and Death

During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman would spend her time cleaning wounds and waving away the flies that settled upon the soldiers, assisting those with dysentery and smallpox, all without pay or pension. Despite her efforts in the war she was still subject to racial discrimination. Going home from the hospital on one occasion, she was forcibly escorted out of a train due to holding a half fare ticket; the ticket that other soldiers and government workers were entitled to use. Harriet Tubman also saw battle and acted as a spy of sorts; she was a valuable asset to the North as they liberated slaves from the South, earning the nickname 'General Tubman'. In 1869 Harriet Tubman married Nelson Davis and adopted a baby named Gertie. Harriet remained poverty stricken throughout her life, relying on the charitable donations from friends such as Thomas Garrett and other stationmasters of the Underground Railroad. Sarah Hopkins Bradford's biography, 'Scenes in the life of Harriet Tubman' was published in 1869 to alleviate some of her financial burden; however, though poor, Harriet Tubman donated a parcel of land for use as a care home in which she resided from 1911 to 1913 until her death.


  1. Sarah Hopkins Bradford - Scenes in the life of Harriet Tubman

  2. National Women's History Museum

  3. The National Park Service

The Biography of Famous Slave Harriet Tubman

  • The Biography of Harriet Tubman, for Education and Learning
  • Harriet Tubman and The Underground Railroad
  • Harriet Tubman and Family, Friends and Religion



  • Quick Facts About the Slave Harriet Tubman
  • Harriet Tubman's Contribution Toward the Freedom of Slaves


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