By: Scott RossPublished: September 17, 2022

Harriet Tubman

Araminta Ross was born into slavery circa 1820 and some time around 1844 married a free black man named John Tubman, whereupon she took his last name. At around the same time - the details are fuzzy here - she took her mother's mother first name, Harriet, thus becoming Harriet Tubman, all-American badass.

A few years later, in 1849, Tubman heard talk that Edward Brodess, the man who held her in slavery, was in need of cash, and would soon start selling off slaves, which would likely mean the separation of Tubman from her mother, sisters, and other family members. Desperate to avoid such a fate, Tubman tried prayer, “Oh Lord, if you ain’t never going to change than man’s heart, kill him, Lord, and take him out of the way,." Wouldn't you know, Brodess died a week hence, leaving Tubman's fate in the hands of his widow, Eliza Brodess.

Tubman decided escape was her best hope and so planned with her brothers Harry and Ben to leave the Poplar Neck Plantation in Carolina County, Maryland. But on the evening of September 17, 1849, her brothers punked out, so she headed off alone on foot, with the North Star as her guide, and set out toward Philadelphia. Because Tubman had at the time of her escape been hired out to another slaver, it would be two weeks before Eliza Brodess realized Tudban was gone, thereupon posting a notice offering as much as a $100 reward for her capture.

More than Philly, the primary goal for Tubman was the Mason-Dixon line, which was the border between servitude and freedom.

“When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person," Tubman would recall years later. "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.”

She found work in Philadelphia and started saving money, money which she used to go back to Maryland in 1851, only to find her husband remarried and happy to stay right where he was. So instead, she rustled up 11 slaves and helped them escape to freedom.

In all, Tubman would make thirteen trips between 1850 and 1860, going back and forth along the Underground Railroad, directly ushering to freedom as many as 66 people, and indirectly another 60 or so, including two groups totaling 46 people, in what was known as the "Stampede of Slaves."

Tubman would go on to recruit men for John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry; fight for the Union in the Civil War, including taking part in the Combahee River Raid, which freed more than 700 slaves; fell in with and married a man 22 years her junior (high five!), and together they adopted a baby girl; got rinsed by a gold scam; helped found an old folks home; campaigned with the women's suffrage movement; and underwent brain surgery at Boston's Mass General -- without anesthesia.

When she died in 1913, at the age of 90 (or maybe 91), she told those around her, "I go to prepare a place for you."


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