Harriet Tubman is a famous American abolitionist and social activist who overcame all odds to achieve outstanding accomplishments. When speaking about slavery and how far we have come, Harriet’s name ranks amongst the greats who facilitated the much-needed change.
Given how phenomenal she was, there are many truths (and lies) that many people do not know about Harriet Tubman. If you are fascinated by history, and more so slavery, this piece sheds more light on who this great was and how she achieved what she did.
1. Her Parents Were Enslaved, and So Was She
While her exact date of birth is not known, Tubman was the daughter of Benjamin Ross and Harriet Green. Her parents were enslaved, so she automatically became one when she was born. By age 5, her parents’ masters rented her to another family so she could serve them.
During this time, when she worked as an enslaved person, thoughts and actions of rebellion filled her. When she was 12, she tried to save another enslaved person from being beaten up by their master. Even though this did not end well for her, it marked the beginning of a great revolution.
2. She Was Hit on the Head During Her Early Years
Many versions of how Harriet Tubman suffered a head injury as an adolescent are there. Most people believe that an overseer hit her with a 2-pound object on the head, which she says broke her skull.
What is certain is that this injury caused her life-long damage. She had seizures, occasional splitting headaches, and vivid dreams. Optimistic as she was, Harriet interpreted the dreams as revelations from God. She used them to fuel her motivation to save as many enslaved people as possible.
3. Her First Name was Araminta Ross
Even though she is famous for Harriet Tubman, this social activist was born Araminta Ross. Not to anyone’s surprise, marriage was banned for enslaved people. However, in 1844, Harriet got married anyway. It was from her first husband, Job Tubman, that she got her surname.
She adopted the name “Harriet” from her mother after escaping slavery. By her marriage, most enslaved people on the Eastern Shore were free.
4. She Tried To Escape Once Before but Failed Before Succeeding
The already tough life experienced when she was young didn’t get better as she grew. When she thought she had had enough, Harriet Tubman, alongside her two brothers, tried to escape in September 1849 but was captured. The slave captures who caught them were given a $100 reward.
As fate would have it, Harriet finally managed to escape. She used Underground Railroad that was already in place and took shelter in secret houses. Harriet eventually made the 90-mile journey to Pennsylvania, a free state then.
She took her journeys mainly at night, primarily relying on the North Star.
5. Harriet Tubman was Nicknamed “Moses”
If anyone escaped their oppressors, there is a very slim chance that they would return for whatever reason. Given what she had gone through, it would have been understandable if she never returned. However, Harriet did not only go back once but several times. Each time she rescued several slaves.
To further show how what she did was difficult and dangerous, a Fugitive Slave Act was put in place in 1850 by Congress. The law sought to punish anyone who assisted runaway slaves. It wasn’t long before Harriet had a massive bounty on her head.
From the about 18 trips that she made to the South, Harriet Tubman rescued approximately 70 slaves. She devised various tricks to avoid capture, including camouflage, singing songs, and wearing a bonnet while carrying chicken so she looked like she was running errands. She was the slaves’ “Moses.”
6. She is considered the First Woman to Work in the Military
Harriet Tubman’s tactics didn’t only rely on singing songs and camouflage; she had a rifle that she wasn’t afraid of using if push came to shove. She also used it to “motivate” the slaves she was freeing. Harriet says she once pointed the gun at a slave’s head, asking whether they wanted to die.
From spirituality to coded messages and violence, Harriet never lost a slave she was trying to save. This is a remarkable statistic given that everything that could go wrong mostly went wrong at the time. She was a true soldier.
7. Harriet Didn’t Know How To Read or Write
For slaves, education was a high-end luxury. It goes without saying that Harriet didn’t have any school-earned knowledge, but she was still brilliant at what she did. She was so good that, at some point, she helped find a cure for dysentery. All she needed was a few herbs and water to boil her concoction.