Harriet Tubman - Biography, Childhood, Marriage & Later Life (2023)

Harriet Tubman was born on March 1822 in Araminta Rose. She was a political activist and abolitionist based in the United States. Harriet Green and Ben Rose, her parents, were enslaved. She was born into slavery as well before she escaped. She exploited an anti-slavery activist network to preserve certain houses known as the Underground Railroad. During the American Civil War, she worked as an armed scout and spy for the Union Army. In her later years, she was an activist in the women’s suffrage campaign.

Tubman’s maternal grandmother came to the United States on a slave ship from Africa. As with many enslaved persons in the United States, neither the precise year nor the location of her birth is known, although Kate Larson lists the year as 1822 and other historians identify the year of her birth as 1820, but there is also a possibility that it was a year or two later. She was informed as a child that she resembled an Ashanti person because of her personality, but there is no evidence to support or refute this claim.


Harriet Tubman Family

Rit, her mother, worked as a cook for the Brodess family. Ben, her father, was a talented woodsman who oversaw the timberwork and Thompson’s plantation. They married in 1808 and had nine children together, according to documents: Linah, Mariah, Soph, Robert, Harriet (minty), Rachel, Henry, and Moses.

Rit battled as a mother to keep her family together as slavery threatened to break them apart. Three of her daughters were sold by Edward Brodess. He was so harsh that he permanently separated her daughters from the family. Later, a man from the state of Georgia approached Brodess about purchasing her youngest son, Moses, and she hid him for a month. She questioned her owner about the deal at one time. Finally, Brodess and the person from Georgia backed away after Rit instructed them to do so.

“You are after my son, but the first man that comes into my house, I will split his head open.”

As a result, they canceled the deal. Biographers of Tubman agree that family memories about the event influenced her belief in the possibility of resistance.

Harriet’s Childhood

Tubman’s mother was allocated to the huge house, which meant she couldn’t care for her younger son and a baby. As a child, Tubman cared for her younger brother and a newborn. Brodess engaged her as a nursemaid to a woman named Miss Susan when she was about five or six years old. She was given the task of caring for the baby. She was whipped when the baby woke up and wailed. Once, she got thrashed five times before breakfast. She was so tough, nevertheless, that she wore the scars for the rest of her life. She discovered a way to get away from all of this. For example, she attempted to flee for five days, to wear layers of garments so the beating would not be as painful, and possibly to fight back.

She also worked in the home of James Cook, a planter. She needed to inspect the traps in the neighboring wetlands. She later became quite ill, prompting Cook to send her back. Once back with her mother, who took excellent care of her, she recovered quickly. Brodess then employed her again. She was assigned to agricultural and forest work, as well as plowing, as she grew older.

An overseer once planned to hurl a 2-pound metal weight at another enslaved individual who attempted to flee. However, the metal struck Tubman, causing her to suffer a severe head injury, which she said shattered her skull. When she was brought to her owner’s home, she was bleeding and unconscious, and she remained there for two days without medical assistance. She began getting seizures and suffered from excruciating migraines as a result of this occurrence. She would occasionally pass out. She claimed to be aware of her surroundings despite the fact that she appeared to be sleeping. For the rest of her life, she was plagued by this condition.

As a result of the damage, Larson believes she may have developed temporal lobe epilepsy. Following her accident, Tubman began to have visions and vivid dreams that she mistook for divine messages. These events had a significant impact on Tubman’s personality and health. She had a strong belief in God. Her mother taught her Bible stories despite the fact that she was illiterate. She, along with her family, went to a Methodist church. Her activities were influenced by her religious beliefs throughout her life.

Harriet’s Marriage Life

She married a Black man named John Tubman in 1844, even though they had only spent a short time together. The status of the mother determined the status of the children, and any children born to Harriet and John would be enslaved. After her marriage Tubman changed her name to Harriet from Araminta.

Clinton believes it corresponded with Tubman’s plan to escape slavery. Harriet chose to take her mother’s surname.

Tubman got sick again in 1849. Edward Brodess was unable to find a buyer when he tried to sell her. She began to pray, pleading with God to change his ways. Later, she stated,

“I prayed all night long for my master till the 1st of March and all the time he was bringing people to look at me and trying to sell me.”

When it appeared to her that her prayer was not being heard, and the sale was about to be completed, she stated the following regarding a change of her prayers:

“I changed my prayer. 1st of March I began to pray, ‘O Lord if you ain’t never going to change that man’s heart, kill him, Lord, and take him out of the way ”

Edward died a week later, although Harriet eventually expressed regret for her earlier thoughts.

Following Edward’s death, his widow Eliza began scheming to sell their families and slaves. Despite her husband’s wishes, Harriet refused to wait for the Brodess family to decide her fate. She stated,

“There was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death, if I could not have one, I would have the other one.”

Harriet’s Escape

On September 17, 1849, Harriet and her brothers, Ben and Henry escaped from slavery. She’d been hired out to Anthony Thompson, the son of her father’s old owner, who owned a big plantation in adjacent Caroline country called Popular Neck. Thompson employed her brothers as well. Because the slaves were hired out to another family, Eliza Brodess may have missed their absence as an escape attempt for some time. She noticed their absence two weeks later. She advertised in the Cambridge Democrat a runway notice with a reward of up to $100 for each slave returned.

When Harriet and her brothers left, they began to have other notions, desiring to return. Ben may have recently become a father. The two men returned and compelled her to join them. Soon after, Harriet left once more, this time without her brothers. She sang a coded song to Mary, a trusted comrade, and slave. She also informed her mother of her plans in advance. Harriet’s exact route was unknown, therefore she relied on a network known as the Underground Railroad. This was a well-organized system composed of free Blacks, white abolitionists and other militants.

The Preston area was most likely a crucial initial stop on Harriet’s escape route. From there, she most likely took a regular route for persons fleeing slavery, heading northeast along the Choctaw River, through the Delaware River, and into Pennsylvania. A walk of roughly 90 miles would have taken between three to five weeks. She successfully evaded slave catchers who were eager to collect incentives for fleeing slaves. At one of her early stops at a house, the owner lady helped keep her identity safe by asking her to sweep the yard which made it appear as if she was an employee at her house. When it got dark, the family put her in the cart and drove her to the next friendly house.

She felt relieved when she crossed into Pennsylvania. She remembers the incident as follows:

“When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”

After reaching Philadelphia, Harriet thought of her family. She said,

“I was a stranger in a strange land. My mother, my father, my brothers and sisters and friends were in Maryland. But I was free, and they should be free.”

She started a job and began saving money. Meanwhile, in 1850, the United States Congress established the runaway slave legislation. The law not only made it more difficult for enslaved people to flee but also made it more dangerous for runaway slaves to reside in the northern United States. Harriet was notified in December 1850 that her niece Kessiah and her two children, 6-year-old James Alfred and newborn Araminta, were about to be sold in Cambridge. Harriet traveled to Baltimore. Kessiah’s husband, a free Black man named John Bowley, won the auction for his wife.

Bowley sailed the family to Baltimore when night fell, where they met Harriet. They traveled to Philadelphia as a group. She returned to Maryland early the following year to help out her other family members. Her brother Moses and two unnamed males were found during her second journey. Biographers believe that she grew more confident with each trip to Maryland. She returned to Dorchester county for the first time since her escape in 1851, but this time to seek out her husband John Tubman.

She used her savings to buy a suit for him. She then learned that John had married another woman named Caroline. Harriet invited him to join her, but he declined, stating that he was happy where he was. Harriet stormed their house and caused a commotion, but she quickly realized he was not worthy of all this. Letting go of this personal tragedy and moving on, she met some enslaved persons who wanted to flee, and she guided them to Philadelphia. Meanwhile, John and Carolyn raised a family, but John was slain in a roadside argument with a white man named Robert Vincent after 16 years.

Many runaway slaves began flocking to southern Ontario as a result of the law. Harriet led an anonymous gang of 11 fugitives in December 1851. Over the course of 11 years, Harriet returned to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where she rescued 70 slaves in around 13 trips. It also included her brothers Henry, Ben and Robert, as well as their wives and children. She also gave detailed directions to over 60 persons who fled to the north. She was given the nickname Moses as a result of her efforts.

One of her final missions in Maryland was to pick up her ailing parents. Her father paid $20 for her mother in 1855. Even while they were free, the surrounding area was hostile to their existence. Two years later, she learned that her father was on the verge of being arrested for assisting a gang of eight escaped slaves. She went to the Eastern Shore and drove her folks to St. Catherines, Ontario. There was a community of former slaves, which included her brothers, relatives and acquaintances. She always carried a handgun with her to protect herself from slave catchers and their dogs, and she wasn’t afraid to use it.

The Civil war

Tubman joined the Union troops when the Civil War broke out. She began as a cook and nurse, but eventually became an armed scout and spy. She was the war’s first female commander of an armed operation. She directed the reading towards the Combahee ferry in which she freed almost 700 enslaved people. She retired after the war and moved into the family home in Auburn, New York, which she had purchased in 1859.

While there she cared for her aging parents. After her sickness took her, she became involved in the women’s suffrage campaign. She passed away in 1913. Even after her death, she remained a symbol of courage and independence for others.

Harriet Tubman Later life

Despite her years of labor, Tubman was never paid on a regular basis. She performed a variety of jobs to help her aging parents and pay the expenses. Nelson Charles Davis, a farmer, was one of the persons Harriet met. He began working as a bricklayer in Auburn. He fell in love with Harriet despite the fact that he was 22 years her junior. They married on March 18, 1869, at the Central Presbyterian church. In 1874, they adopted a newborn girl named Gertie and raised her as a family. Nelson, however, died on October 14, 1888, as a result of tuberculosis.

Harriet’s friends and supporters contributed a lot of money to help her out. Sarah Bradford, one of her fans, produced a book entitled Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman. It was published in 1869 and earned Harriet about $1200. A white woman once questioned her in her later years if she believed women should have the vote, and she said, “I suffered enough to believe it.”

Harriet’s seizures, headaches, and suffering from her childhood drama debilitated her as she grew older. In the 1890s, she underwent brain surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. She couldn’t sleep because of the discomfort. She requested the doctor to perform an operation to which he agreed. In her words, the doctor,

“sawed open my skull, and raised it up, and now it feels more comfortable”

By 1911, her body had become so feeble that she was admitted to the rest home named for her. She died of pneumonia on March 10, 1913, surrounded by friends and relatives. Her final words were,

“I’ve had to prepare a spot for you.”

She was buried with semi-military honors in Auburn’s Fort Hill Cemetery. In 1979, a Harriet Tubman Memorial Library was established nearby.


How many slaves did Harriet Tubman free?

She made 19 trips to the south and she freed over 300 slaves.

Did Harriet Tubman get caught?

She was never caught and never lost a passenger

How did Harriet Tubman escape slavery?

She used the Underground Railroad to escape slavery. In 1849, she, along with her brothers escaped but after some time, her brothers wanted to come back and forced her to return with them. A few years later, Harriet escaped again but this time without her brothers.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_Tubman
  2. https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/harriet-tubman
  3. https://www.history.com/topics/Black-history/harriet-tubman
  4. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Harriet-Tubman


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Zonia Mosciski DO

Last Updated: 04/12/2023

Views: 6058

Rating: 4 / 5 (71 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Zonia Mosciski DO

Birthday: 1996-05-16

Address: Suite 228 919 Deana Ford, Lake Meridithberg, NE 60017-4257

Phone: +2613987384138

Job: Chief Retail Officer

Hobby: Tai chi, Dowsing, Poi, Letterboxing, Watching movies, Video gaming, Singing

Introduction: My name is Zonia Mosciski DO, I am a enchanting, joyous, lovely, successful, hilarious, tender, outstanding person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.