Harriet Tubman Level AwardHave you ever wondered how the Level Awards got their names? Each award is named after a person (or people) who have made a positive impact on our country.
Hello, my name is Harriet Tubman. I was born in Maryland in 1820, and was named Harriet Ross. My parents were from the Ashanti tribe of West Africa, and they worked as slaves on the Brodas plantation. Life was not easy on the plantation! I was even forced to work as a laborer when I was only five years old.
I did not like to work indoors and was hired out as a field hand. I was a hard worker and a confident teen. Some people thought that I was defiant and rebellious, but I was just confident that people should do what was right. When I was 15 years old, I tried to help a runaway slave. Because I did this, the overseer hit me in the head with a lead weight, hard. The blow was so powerful, that I fell into a coma which took months to recover from. The damage was so severe to my brain, that I suffered for the rest of my life from occasional blackouts. Despite this pain and injury, I remained brave and strong, knowing that I must always do what was right, even when it was difficult.
In 1844, I married a free black man named John Tubman and became Harriet Tubman, the name you probably recognize. Although I was married, I feared being sent to the deep South. Slaves were treated horribly in the deep south, and if you were sent there, you would almost surely die. In 1849, after the owner of the Brodas plantation died I found out that I would be sent South. Unable to bear the thought of suffering more, I decided that I had to escape the plantation that night.
With the help of contacts along the Underground Railroad I made the 90-mile trip to the Mason-Dixon line. The journey was difficult as I had to hike through swamps and woodland. Once free, I decided to settle in Philadelphia and work as a dishwasher. I missed my family terribly and decided that I must make plans to rescue them. Over the next few years I was able to travel to Maryland and bring my sister and brothers to the North. I did go back to try to rescue my husband, but he had remarried and did not want to follow me. Finally, in 1857, I was able to return for my parents and settled them in Auburn, New York.
By this time, I had become somewhat famous because of all the slaves I had helped escape. There were huge rewards offered for my capture, so I had to be very careful not to be caught. I became a master of disguise, learning not to be recognized. I was so good at this, that when a former master ran into me on the street, he didn't even recognize me! Some nicknamed me the "Moses of her people" for leading them to freedom. In all, I was able to make 19 trips on the Underground Railroad and freed more than 300 slaves.
With the arrival of the Civil War, I was asked to be a spy for the Union army, and later worked as a government nurse. At the end of the war, I returned to my parents in Auburn. Life was still difficult, as I was extremely poor. So when Sarah Bradford wrote a book called Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, in 1869 I was very relieved! The profits from this book were a great help.
In 1870, I married Nelson Davis, who I had met at a South Carolina army base. We were happily married for 18 years until parted by death. In 1896, I was able to purchase land to build a home for sick and needy blacks. I wasn't able to raise enough money to build the house, so I decided to donate the land to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. The church was able to complete the home in 1908, and I moved there several years later. I spent my last years in the home telling stories of my life to visitors. On March 10, 1913, I died of pneumonia. I was 93 years old and had lived a very full life.
I was a brave, confident women who fought for the rights of African-Americans. I continued to do what was right, even in the face of physical harm and frightening circumstances. I hope that you too can fight for what is right, with bravery and confidence.
Researcher: Rachel Sahlman
Would you like to learn more about Harriet Tubman?
Try reading Courage to Run: A Story Based on the Life of Harriet Tubman (Daughters of the Faith Series) by Wendy Lawton