Born around 1820 - Died in 1913

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman was born around 1820 in Maryland. Her parents were slaves, so she also was a slave when she was born. She had to work even when she was a little child. When she was twelve years old, she suffered a serious injury when an overseer threw a heavy weight which hit her in the head. After that incident she slept a lot. This condition remained with her the rest of her life. People with narcolepsy will suddenly fall asleep wherever they happen to be.

When she was 25, she married John Tubman who was not a slave, but a free African American.

Harriet was afraid she was going to be sold and sent to the South, so she decided to run away. A white neighbor gave her some names of people she could contact to help her. She was about to escape through the Underground Railroad.

Map of the Underground Railroad

To understand the story of Harriet Tubman we first need to learn something about the Underground Railroad. It was not a railroad, and it was not under the ground. It was a network of "safe houses" where slaves could flee from one house to the next until they made their way to the Canadian border. The people helping them had to do it secretly, so it was an "underground" or covert* operation.

The safe houses were called "stations" or "depots". The owners of the houses were called "stationmasters". A compassionate* religious group of Quakers were stationmasters as well as certain free blacks who were sympathetic to the slaves.

The people who traveled with the slaves to help them escape were called "conductors".

The slaves knew they had to go north to find freedom. They used the North Star, Polaris*, as their guide. They would use the coded words in the song "Follow the Drinking Gourd" to find their way. (The drinking gourd was the Big Dipper in the sky from which they could locate the North Star.)

During a forty year period about 100,000 slaves escaped from the South through the Underground Railroad.

Harriet contacted a person her friend had recommended, and through a series of safe houses made her way to Canada where she became a free woman. Her next concern was to help her family also become free. She returned to Maryland again and again freeing her sister and her sister's two children, her brother and two other men. When she went to rescue her parents who were seventy years old, she had to arrange for a wagon because they were too frail to make the trip on foot.

She made a trip to free her husband, John, only to find that he had married another woman! It made her very sad that he had rejected her and chosen another to be his wife, but she decided to devote herself to helping others gain freedom. She later married Nelson David, a former slave who was a Union soldier.

Harriet made nineteen trips as a "conductor", risking her life every time, and successfully freed about 300 slaves. She carried a gun and threatened any slave who wanted to turn back.

A reward of $40,000 was offered to any bounty hunter who brought Harriet in to the authorities, but she managed to avoid capture. She was such a brave woman! Harriet became known as "Moses" because she was freeing her people just as Moses freed the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery.

She made friends with many influential* people including abolitionists* John Brown and Frederick Douglas. She befriended Senator William H. Seward from New York. He and his wife provided a house where she moved her parents down from Canada. She later was able to buy the home and stayed there when she was not on the road helping slaves escape.

During the Civil War Harriet worked for the Union Army. Sometimes she worked as a cook, sometimes she served as a nurse, and even worked as a spy! After the war she returned to her home in Auburn, New York.

Harriet Tubman died at the age of 93. After her death she received many honors. A ship was named for her; the Liberty Ship Harriet Tubman, and in 1995 the federal government issued a commemorative* postage stamp in her honor.

Fergus M. Bordewich, the author of "Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America" states that myths grew up around the Underground Railroad. He says one fact that can't be substantiated is that quilts with secret code in the squares were displayed to indicate safe houses. View excerpts from the book.

(When you get to Amazon view the "Search Inside" to see the contents of the book.)

This biography by Patsy Stevens, a retired teacher, was written in 2006.

A frequent question:
"Who wrote this biography
and when was it written?"
Look on this Reference Citations Chart.

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Color a picture of Harriet Tubman

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Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad
from Pocantico Hills School

My Own Books
personalize an online story about Harriet Tubman
by inserting your name in the story

Harriet Tubman
printable study sheet

The Life of Harriet Tubman

A Play about Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman
from PBS

Harriet Tubman
America's Story

Mini unit about Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman
Heroes for a Better World, picture to color

at Digital History

Follow the Drinking Gourd
explanation of the song lyrics

The Underground Railroad
presentation of National Geographic

The Underground Railroad
information at PBS

The Underground Railroad
from the History Channel

Underground Railroad Timeline

Maryland and the Underground Railroad

Underground Railroad Lesson Plan
Lesson Snips.com
(You must register to access lessons.)

The Abolitionists
American Experience

Women Spies
biography with audio version

Harriet Tubman - An Informative and Impressionistic Look
from the Kennedy Center

Harriet Tubman -Illustrating History
from the Kennedy Center

Africans in America
resources describing slavery in early America

Abolition of Slavery
Condition of Slaves
video lessons
(Click on the topics "Interactive Media Files", be sure volume is turned up.)

From Word Central's Student Dictionary
by Merriam - Webster

(Pronunciation note: the schwa sound is shown by ə)

Pronunciation: kO-'vərt, 'kəv-ərt
Function: adjective
not openly made or done as in a covert military operation

Pronunciation: kəm-'pash-ən
Function: noun
sorrow or pity caused by the suffering or misfortune of another
com pas sion ate /-'pash-(ə-)nət/ adjective

Pronunciation: pə-'lar-əs, -'lahr-
Function: noun
the North Star

Pronunciation: "in-(")floo-'en-chəl
Function: adjective
having influence

Pronunciation: ab-ə-'lish-(ə-)nəst
Function: noun
a person who is in favor of abolishing especially slavery

Pronunciation: kə-'mem-ə-rət-iv
Function: adjective
intended to commemorate a person, thing, or event
as a commemorative postage stamp

40983: Courage to Run: A Story Based on the Life of Harriet Tubman Courage to Run: A Story Based on the Life of Harriet Tubman
By Wendy Lawton / Moody Publishers

Born Arminta Ross, young Harriet Tubman (named after her mother when she was full-grown) was a faithful strong girl growing up in the late 1800's as a slave in the south. Her faith was at the center of everything she did and she was tested at every turn. The story of her childhood is a record of courage and bravery. Even more, it's the story of God's faithfulness as he prepares her to eventually lead more than 300 people out of slavery through the Underground Railroad. For ages 8-12.

002907: Heroes of History: Harriet Tubman, Freedombound Heroes of History: Harriet Tubman, Freedombound
By Janet & Geoff Benge / Emerald Books

At age six the sharp bite of the whip taught Harriet Tubman what it meant to be a slave. The other slaves scoffed when Harriet resolved to escape to the north someday. Little did they know that this girl would one day lead hundreds of slaves to freedome on the Underground Railroad. Even huge rewards for her capture-dead or alive-did not stop Harriet from risking her life again and again in the fight for liberty as the nation spiraled toward the Civil War. Whether running from slave hunters, advising generals, or improving conditions in war hospitals, remarkable Harriet Tubman would not be satisfied until every person could experience true freedom.

066848: Harriet Tubman Biography FunBook Harriet Tubman Biography FunBook
By Carole Marsh & Sherry Moss(Editor) / Gallopade International

Everyone's favorite way to learn about America's bravest citizens! Easy-to-read information, facts, trivia, humor and activities are all included in Biography Funbooks! Discover what Harriet Tubman spent her life doing after her own escape from slavery-even beyond the Underground Railroad! Ages 7-12. 14 pages, paperback.

428895: Who Was Harriet Tubman? Who Was Harriet Tubman?
By Yona Zeldis Mcdonough / Grosset & Dunlap

Harriet Tubman was born a slave, and experienced firsthand its horrors. Learning from other slaves about the Underground Railroad, she traveled north to Philadelphia-only to return as a conductor herself, helping hundreds of slaves escape. This biography will inspire children as they read of her confidence and courage to risk everything for freedom. 112 pages, paperback. Ages 9-12.


Harriet Tubman: Hero of the Underground Railroad
by Lori Mortensen (selected pages) Order here

Learning about bravery from the life of Harriet Tubman
by Kiki Mosher (selected pages) Order here

Harriet Tubman (First Biographies)
by Randy T. Gosda (selected pages) Order here

Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad
by Patricia Lantier (selected pages) Order here

Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad
by Dan Stearns (selected pages) Order here

Harriet Tubman: Riding the Freedom Train
by Rose Blue, Corinne J. Naden (selected pages) Order here

Harriet Tubman: Moses of Her People
by Carole Marsh (selected pages) Order here

Harriet Tubman: Childhood of Famous Americans
by Kathleen V. Kudlinski (selected pages) Order here

Harriet Tubman: the life and the life stories
by Jean McMahon Humez (selected pages) Order here

Harriet Tubman
by M. J. Cosson (selected pages) Order here

The Underground Railroad: Bringing Slaves North to Freedom
by Judy Monroe (selected pages) Order here

Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction (Look for Harriet Tubman)
by Hallie Quinn Brown (public domain, 1926, full view) Order here

Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman
by Sarah Hopkins Bradford (public domain, 1869, full view) Order here

Unsung Heroes (Harriet Tubman page 87)
by Elizabeth Ross Hayes (public domain, 1921, full view)

Preview these Amazon books using the links below.

Harriet Tubman, A Woman of Courage
Online book by Renee Skelton (selected pages)

Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad
Online book by Dan Abnett (selected pages)

Harriet Tubman, The Moses of Her People
Online book by Sarah Hopkins Bradford (selected pages)

Harriet Tubman, A Lesson in Bravery
by Elizabeth Kernan (selected pages)

A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman
by David A. Adler (selected pages)

Harriet Tubman
by Dana Meachen Rau (selected pages)

Harriet Tubman: Leading the Way to Freedom
by Laurie Calkhoven (selected pages)

Page Comments

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This a very good site! Harriet Tubman is an amazing woman!! Shes VERY brave!!!!!!!!!!!
This information has helped me alot doing a project on her. Im glad I had the chance to look up information about her because I really needed o know how she saved slaves.

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