The Underground Railroad was established in the US to aid slaves in finding a route to freedom. With the help of anti-slavery advocates and abolititionists, hundreds of slaves made their way north to escape the shackles of slavery. Many continued on to Canada because slavery had already been abolished here.
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in Maryland sometime between 1820 and 1822. She was a well-known abolitionist, a nurse, a Civil War spy, a humanitarian and a suffragist, among other things. Harriet was one of the most famous conductors on the Underground Railroad, which was the means she used to escape slavery. She took her own life into her hands many times to help her people escape to freedom. She earned the name Moses because of her dedication and determination to free her people from slavery.
Tubman's master died in 1849 and it was at this time that Tubman sought out the Underground Railroad and traveled by night using the North Star as her compass. Finally, she reached Philadelphia and found work as a domestic. She saved her money to help her own family escape the bonds of slavery.
Between 1850 and 1860, Tubman conducted approximately thirteen escapes and brought seventy-five slaves to freedom. In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act had been passed and all escaped slaves were in danger of being returned to their owners.
In 1851, Tubman brought her family to St. Catherines, Ontario. On Christmas Day, 1854, she helped her brothers escape and led them first to Philadelphia and then on to St. Catherines where she had established a home for herself. She and her brothers attended the African Methodist Episcopal Church which was just behind her home. It still stands today and is pictured below.
In 1857, Tubman brought her parents to St. Catherines because she learned her father was to be arrested for helping slaves escape. The following year, John Brown visited Tubman at her home on North St. in St. Catherines. Tubman was a strong supporter of Brown.
Tubman worked as a cook, laundress, nurse, scout, spy and teacher during the Civil War. She was the first woman to lead Union soldiers and defeat the Confederates. More than 700 slaves were freed in the raid. Tubman returned to Auburn, New York in 1857, taking her elderly parents with her.
Due to Tubman's efforts, Auburn, NY was a hub of activity in support of women's rights. She established a home for the aged and indigent in 1908. She lived there until her death in 1913 and is buried at Fort Hills Cemetery, Auburn.
I have visited the African Methodist Episcopal Church where Harriet Tubman attended a few years ago. At that time her house was still standing. I'm not sure if it still is, but I certainly hope so.
The legacy that Harriet Tubman left to the world is a great one. She was a courageous woman who was years ahead of her time and she left her mark on the world.
Photo of Harriet Tubman
Courtesy of the Library of Congress 5910
No known restrictions on publication
Photographer: H.B. Lindsay
Photo is believed to have been taken between 1860 and 1875