(c. 1820 – 1913)
We’re celebrating black heroes who made history, but this woman needs no introduction. Harriet Tubman escaped slavery and became a leading abolitionist who led hundreds of slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad.
Tubman was born into slavery and experienced great emotional and physical trauma from an early age. She was one of nine children, but the family was ripped apart as different family members were sold to distant plantations. She also experienced physical violence—so much that it caused her permanent injuries. Yet, in 1849, she was still able to flee North and escape slavery.
Rather than remain safe in the North, Tubman made it her mission to rescue other slaves. Her father taught her how to gauge the weather, navigate the woods without making a sound, recognize the different birds, differentiate between edible and poisonous berries, and identify the plants and trees that had medicinal value—all skills she used to maneuver through the terrains as she helped free slaves. Between 1850 and 1860, despite great danger, Tubman made nineteen trips from the South to the North utilizing the Underground Railroad.
From 1862 to 1865 during the Civil War, Tubman worked for the Union Army as a cook, nurse, armed scout, and spy. She was the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, guiding the Combahee River Raid, which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.
Tubman said that God guided her as she rescued slaves. She became known as the “Moses of her people,” and it has been said that she never lost a fugitive she was leading to freedom. For this, and many other accomplishments, we should continue to celebrate her.