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Harriet Tubman Biography

Born into Slavery

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When was Harriet Tubman born?

Harriet Tubman was likely born sometime between 1815 and 1825 in Dorchester County, Maryland. Like many of the enslaved at the time, there are no accurate records of her birth. Her gravestone lists 1820 as her birth year and this date is commonly used for her birth date.

Harriet's birth name was Araminta Ross. She went by the nickname "Minty." She changed her name to Harriet Tubman shortly after marrying John Tubman in 1944.

Picture of enslaved people in the South working a field
Plantation Enslaved Workers Planting Sweet Potatoes
Author: Henry P. Moore

Who were her parents?

Harriet's parents, Ben Ross and Harriet Green, were both enslaved, and this meant that Harriet was also enslaved. Her grandmother on her mother's side arrived on an enslaver's ship from Africa.

Harriet was named after her mother who worked as a cook at the "Big House" on the plantation. Her mom went by the nickname "Rit." Rit was a tough woman who worked hard to keep the family together. Rit often told the children Bible stories and taught them about God. Harriet loved these stories and would remain religious the rest of her life.

Her father, Ben Ross, was a woodworker on the plantation. He sometimes took Minty into the woods and taught her about the trees and the forest animals. Perhaps the most important thing Ben taught Minty was how to use nature to find her way north. He told her how to locate the North Star and how to use the moss on the trees to determine direction. She would use her nature skills later in life to find her way north.

Where did she grow up?

As a child, Harriet lived in a small wooden cabin with no windows and dirt floors. She had at least 8 brothers and sisters, maybe more. Even as a very young child, Harriet had to watch after her younger siblings while her mother worked. One of the defining moments in Harriet's young life was the day two of her sisters were taken away. They were sold by the enslaver. The children of the enslaved could be sold at any moment. It was the greatest fear of enslaved parents. Harriet later recalled the look of terror on her sister's faces as they were dragged away from their family.

Another time, however, Harriet's mother demonstrated a will to resist her enslavers. When she heard rumors that her enslaver was going to sell one of her sons, she hid her son with other enslaved people for over a month. When the enslaver finally cornered them in her cabin, she warned him saying "The first man that comes into my house, I will split his head open". The enslaver backed off and the boy stayed with the family. This example of resistance gave Harriet hope and determination later in life.

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Harriet Tubman Biography Contents
  1. Overview and Interesting Facts
  2. Born into Slavery
  3. Early Life as a Slave
  4. Wounded!
  5. Dreaming About Freedom
  6. The Escape!
  7. The Underground Railroad
  8. Freedom and the First Rescue
  9. The Conductor
  10. The Legend Grows
  11. Harper's Ferry and the Civil War Begins
  12. Life as a Spy
  13. Life After the War
  14. Later Life and Death
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Works Cited

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