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Harriet Tubman Biography
Freedom and the First Rescue
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After days on the run, hiding during the day and secretly traveling at night, Harriet crossed the Mason-Dixon line into Pennsylvania. She was probably overwhelmed with different emotions. On one hand, filled with joy and relief at finally making it to freedom and the promised land, but on the other hand, she had just arrived in a strange land. She didn't know anyone. She didn't have a job or a place to stay. What would Harriet do?
Harriet made her way to Philadelphia. It must have been a strange place to her. She had grown up in a rural part of Maryland, working mostly on farms and occasionally visiting small towns. Now she was in a big city. She was free to go wherever she wanted. She saw free black people everywhere she looked. Harriet soon found work as a cook and was able to support herself.
Not long after arriving in Philadelphia, Harriet received news that her niece Kizzy (short for Kessiah) was going to be sold to slavers in the deep South. Kizzy's two young children were also set to be sold and the family would be separated from Kizzy's husband, a free black man named John Bowley.
Harriet remembered watching her sisters get carried away to be sold off and couldn't bear to see the same happen to her niece. Harriet had made connections with the Philadelphia Underground Railroad including William Still, who is considered by some to be the Father of the Underground Railroad. She began to hatch a plan for Kizzy's escape.
Showing amazing courage, Harriet traveled to Baltimore where she made arrangements for the escape. It's hard to imagine how someone who had just earned their freedom after years of slavery would risk everything to help rescue someone else, but that's just what Harriet did. She wasn't going to put the safety of her niece in someone else's hands. She was going to go there herself and make sure Kizzy reached freedom.
Harriet had to move quickly. Kizzy and her children had been sent to Cambridge, Maryland to be sold at the slave market. Although Harriet's bravery showed no limits, she was also intelligent. She knew she couldn't return to her home in Dorchester County without being caught. The first part of the plan was up to Kizzy's husband John Bowles.
The day of the slave auction, John waited until the slave auctioneer went to lunch. He then boldly walked up to the slave guard and presented him with an envelope. The envelope contained a faked message saying that Kizzy and her children had already been sold and John was to take them to their new owner. The unsuspecting guard let them leave with John who quickly escorted them to a Quaker safe house.
Over the next few days the family secretly traveled to Baltimore where they met up with Harriet. Harriet then led them the rest of the way to Pennsylvania. They traveled from station to station at night, mostly walking, but sometimes by boat or in a wagon. Harriet led the way, carrying a gun she had bought with her savings. Nothing was going to stop her. After several days, they crossed the border into Pennsylvania and Harriet had made her first rescue on the Underground Railroad.
Harriet Tubman Biography Contents
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- Overview and Interesting Facts
- Born into Slavery
- Early Life as a Slave
- Dreaming About Freedom
- The Escape!
- The Underground Railroad
- Freedom and the First Rescue
- The Conductor
- The Legend Grows
- Harper's Ferry and the Civil War Begins
- Life as a Spy
- Life After the War
- Later Life and Death
More Civil Rights Heroes:
Susan B. Anthony
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Booker T. Washington
Ida B. Wells
More women leaders: