Harriet Tubman was a poor slave girl who ran away from her plantation at the age of 28. Throughout the course of her life many people and many things challenged her. Each situation she was faced with tested either her mental or physical strength, usually both. She persevered through all of her trials stronger and wiser, and was willing to always help others through their own.
Not one to instigate unless extremely necessary, Harriet was known for her quick thinking and her reactions to each ordeal she was faced with. She responded to them with a sharp mind, and strong faith in deliverance through the Lord. Harriet Tubman was born under the name of Araminta Ross in either 1820 or 1821 on a plantation in Dorchester County, Maryland. Records were not kept of slave births so her birth date is a mystery. She was one of eleven children born to slaves Harriet Green and Benjamin Ross.
Araminta was put to work at the age of five and served as a maid and children’s nurse before becoming a field hand when she was 11. Approximately one year after she began working in the fields she suffered a near-fatal blow to the head while protecting a fellow slave from a white Overseer. The Overseer, attempting to stop a would-be runaway, threw a 2-pound weight in his direction. Araminta tried to foil the Overseers attempts to stop the runaway, consequently suffering the blow to her forehead. A portion of her skull was pushed against her brain and she suffered blackouts for the rest of her life as a result. This incident also left a dent in the middle of her forehead and she was disabled for almost a year.
As was customary of all plantations, when Araminta turned 12 she started wearing a bright bandana around her head indicating she was no longer a child. Araminta wore this bandanna like a badge – a sign of her courage and the spirit that had brought her through times of trouble. She was also no longer known by her “basket name”, Araminta. Now she would be called Harriet.
Yet she always insisted that the Lord addressed her by the name “Araminta. ” In 1844, Harriet received permission from her master to marry John Tubman, a free black man. For the next five years Harriet lived in a state of semi-slavery: she remained legally a slave, but her master allowed her to live with her husband. Since Harriet was still a slave she knew there was a chance that she could be sold and her marriage split apart. Harriet dreamed of traveling north. There, she would be free and not have to worry about her marriage being split up by the slave trade.
But John did not want her to go north. He said he was fine where he was and that there was no reason for moving north. He told her that if she ran off, he would tell her master. She did not believe him until she saw his face and then she knew he meant it.
The death of her master in 1847, followed by the death of his young son and heir in 1849, made Tubman’s status uncertain. Amid rumors that the family’s slaves would be sold to settle the estate, Tubman fled to the North and found freedom. But when there, in Philadelphia, she grew terribly lonely. She worked for the year and saved her money, determined to bring “her people” to freedom, as well.
In 1850 Harriet helped her first slaves escape: her sister and her sisters two children. That same year Harriet was made an official “conductor” of the Underground Railroad. This meant that she knew all the routes to free territory and she had to take an oath of silence so the secret of the Underground Railroad would be kept secret. In 1851 she rescued her brother James and other friends. She also tried, on this trip, to get her husband John to come with her, but he had remarried since she left and did not want to leave. Tubman made eleven trips from Maryland to Canada from 1852-1857.
During the ten years she worked as a conductor Harriet managed .