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"I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land."

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Harriet Tubman read by Maya Angelou

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Harriet Tubman

(1820-1913)

Araminta Ross (later Harriet Tubman) was born a slave in Maryland's Dorchester County around 1820. At age five or six, she began to work as a house slave and was frequently beaten by the slavemasters. Seven years later she was sent to work in the fields. While she was still in her early teens, she suffered an injury that would follow her for the rest of her life. Tubman blocked a doorway to protect a fellow field slave from an angry overseer. The overseer picked up and threw a two-pound weight at the field hand. It fell short, striking Tubman on the head. She never fully recovered from the blow, which subjected her to long periods of unconsciousness.

Around 1844 she married a free black named John Tubman. In 1849, in fear that she, along with the other slaves on the plantation, was to be sold, Tubman resolved to run away. She set out one night on foot. She followed the North Star by night, making her way to Pennsylvania and soon after to Philadelphia, where she found work and saved her money.

The following year she returned to Maryland and escorted her sister and her sister's two children to freedom. She made another dangerous trip back to the South soon after to rescue her brother and two other men. On her third return, she went after her husband, only to find he had taken another wife. Undeterred, she found other slaves seeking freedom and led them to the North through the Underground Railroad.

Tubman returned to the South again and again. She devised techniques that helped make her attempts successful. By 1856, Tubman's capture would have brought a $40,000 reward from the South.

Tubman had made the perilous trip to slave country 19 times by 1860, including one especially challenging journey in which she rescued her 70-year-old parents. Frederick Douglass said, "... I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than [Harriet Tubman]." Becoming active with the leading abolitionists of the day, Tubman became heavily involved in the antislavery movement.

During the Civil War Harriet Tubman worked for the Union as a cook, a nurse, and a spy. After the war she settled in Auburn, New York, where she would spend the rest of her long life. She died in 1913.

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