Harriet Tubman Park History
Harriet Tubman (born Araminta Ross, c. 1820 – 10 March 1913) was an African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the Civil War. She escaped from captivity and made thirteen missions to rescue over seventy slaves using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She later helped John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harpers Ferry, and in the post-war era struggled for women's suffrage.
Born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland, Tubman was whipped and beaten by her various owners as a child. When she was young, she suffered a traumatic head wound when a slave owner threw a heavy metal weight at her with the intent to hit another slave. The injury caused disabling seizures, headaches, and powerful visionary and dream activity, and spells of hypersomnia that occurred throughout her life. A devout Christian, she ascribed her visions and vivid dreams to premonitions from God.
Tubman escaped to Philadelphia in 1849, and then returned to Maryland to rescue her family. Slowly, she brought relatives with her out of the state, and eventually guided dozens of other slaves to freedom. Traveling by night and in extreme secrecy, Tubman "never lost a passenger". Heavy rewards were offered for many of the people she helped bring away, but no one ever found it was Harriet Tubman who was helping them. When a United States Fugitive Slave Law was passed in 1850, she helped guide fugitives further north into Canada. Tubman also helped newly-freed slaves find work. Some referred to her as “Moses”.
When the Civil War began, Tubman worked for the Union Army. She began as a cook and nurse, and then became an armed scout and spy. As the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, she guided the raid on the Combahee River, which liberated more than seven hundred slaves. After the war, she retired to the family home in Auburn, New York, where she cared for her parents. Tubman was active in the women's suffrage movement until illness overtook her and she was admitted to a home for elderly African-Americans she had helped open years earlier. Upon her death in 1913, she became an icon of American courage and freedom.