Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman's Childhood

Harriet Tubman was born into slavery, on a plantation in Viginia, her exact birthdate is unknown, but it is believed to be somewhere between 1820 and 1825. Tubman's frst home was on the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The Edward Brodess farm near Bucktown, where Harriet and her family lived, was not large by plantation standards, but it still used slaves to work the land. Harriet's mother's name was Harriet "Rit" Green, and her father was Benjamin Ross. Tubman's name at birth was Araminta "Minty" Ross.

When Harriet was five, a nearby family paid her owner to let her come work for them. She had to do omestic work- cleaning, bringing in the firewood, and even taking care of the master and mistress's infant. Harriet was still so little at the time, she had to sit on the floor to make sure that the baby would not slip out of her hands. After working all day, young Harriet had to stay up most of the night, too. If the baby cried and woke up her master and mistress, Harriet was punished. She once said that she was whipped five times before breakfast while working at that house.

As Harriet grew older, she also grew out of domestic chores and was hired out as a field worker.

When Harriet was 12, a slave trader from Georgia attempted to purchase Harriet's brother Moses. For many slaves, "Georgia" could mean anywhere in the Deep South. Because of the hard work on the cotton fields, and the greater distance to possible freedom in the North, no slave wanted to be sold down to Georgia. This event probably made a huge impression on young Harriet.

Then, at the age of twelve, Harriet suffered severe injuries  that would affect her for the rest of her life.
Heading over to a local store to purchase kitchen supplies for the plantation cook, she found out that her overseer was going to punish one of the young men for leaving the fields. Because the young field hand was going to the store as well, she tried to run ahead and warn him. Harriet stood in the doorway of the store while the frightned young man fled. The slave owner meant to punish him and threw a heavy lead weight in his direction. Although it was probably and accident, the weight struck Harriet in the head instead.Harriet spent the next two days unable to move. Weeks and months went by, with Harriet slippin into a deep sleep, then walking, and then falling into deep sleep again. Finally, Harriet seemed to recover, although for the rest of her life, she would occasionally slip into what she called "spells"- episodes where she blacked out. In later years, she was even known to have a blackout in midsentence, wake up later, and continue what she was saying as though nothing had happened. Today, this condition is known as Narcolepsy.



Marriage and Dreams of Freedom
In 1844, Harriet married John Tubman, a freeman. Not much is known about John Tubman, except that he and Harriet may have worked on some of the same farms. They did not have any children, but they both lived on Dr. Anthony Thompson's property. Thompson was a nearby land owner to whom Harriet had been hired out. Despite the fact that they were married, Harriet and John faced very different lives. John was free and had much more security. Harriet was still a slave, and her life was very uncertain. The lure of freedom- and the fear of being sold and sent South- made Harriet realize that it might be time to make a bold move.
Harriet kept hearing rumors about slaves at the Brodess plantation being sold. She prayed that god would "either change Edward Brodess' heart or bring him home, so he can't cause any more trouble." Brodess died shortly afterwards. Tubman felt horribly gulty because it seemed her prayer was answered. Edward Brodess's death left debts to settle. Because he had always owned more slaves than he could afford to kepeep (one of the reasons so many were hired out), the rumor around the plantation was that Harriet and two of her brothers were to be sold to new owners in the Deep South. Harriet ran away in the Fall of 1849 before she could be sold.



Harriet Tubman's Escape
When fugitive slaves finally crossed over to freedom in the North, they generally used new names to protect themselves. The noted aboltionist Fredrick Douglass is a case in point. Originally Fredrick Augustus Washington Bailey, he took on the last name Douglass-a new name for a new life. "Harriet" was the name of Tubman's mother.
Harriet made her escape sometime in September 1849. Notices in local newspapers shortly afterward mentioned a reward for a woman, "about 27 years old, by the name of Minty." Harriet made her decision to leave shortly after hearing a rumor that she and other slaves were about to be sold into the Deep South.
Harriet had been thinking about her escape for some time and had developed a plan for her trip North. Harriet was 27 years old and a smart woman. Slaves often shared rumors about the Underground Railroad. She undoubtedly combined this information with her knowledge of the surrounding country to figure out the best way to travel the 90 miles to freedom. Luckily, there were plenty of places to hide on the way to the North. The marshy landscape of Eastern Maryland provided excellent resting spots-hard to see through and tough to track. Alos, Quakers and other aboltionists had settled in the reigon and were generally united against slavery.
Tubman recieved a piece of paper with two names upon it and how to get to the first house, Tubman didn't know how to read and write, but she kept going North and took the person's word.