Harriet Tubman Biography
Early Life as an Enslaved Person
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Araminta (Harriet Tubman) and her mother were the property of a man named Edward Brodess, the owner of a small plantation in Maryland. As a young child, Araminta likely had no idea what it meant to be enslaved. Unfortunately, she would find out soon enough.
Enslaved as a Child
Around the age of 5, Araminta was hired out by Brodess for the first time. This was a common practice where an enslaver would sell the services of an enslaved person to someone else for a period of time. Araminta was sent to work for "Miss Susan" where she performed household chores during the day and watched Miss Susan's baby at night. She was expected to rock the baby's cradle and keep it from crying during the night. Whenever the baby cried, Miss Susan would whip Araminta on the neck. Araminta was clearly too young to handle such difficult work under such horrible circumstances. She became sick, exhausted, and unable to continue the job. Eventually, Miss Susan returned her to Brodess to be nursed back to health by her mother.
As soon as Araminta regained her health, she was hired out again. She worked a variety of jobs at different farms and plantations around the area. Many of these jobs were physically challenging for a child including breaking flax (a demanding job even for an adult) and retrieving muskrats from traps in the river. Harriet would later recall how homesick she was a child.
Running Away for the First Time
During one of her jobs, the master and mistress were in the middle of a terrible argument. Araminta was standing near a bowl of sugar. She had never tasted sugar, but she had heard how good it tasted and wanted terribly try it out. When she thought her mistress was distracted by the argument, she grabbed a quick taste. Just when she had her finger in the bowl, the mistress turned around. Araminta knew immediately that she was in for the beating of her life. She bolted for the door and away from the house.
Araminta ran and ran. She didn't have a plan, she just ran. At the point where she couldn't run any longer she came to a large pig sty. She snuck into the pig sty and hid with the pigs. She stayed there for several days, fighting the pigs for scraps. Eventually, she became so tired and hungry she returned to the home knowing what was coming.
At another job Araminta was required to wade out into the river and check muskrat traps. Again, this wasn't a job suited to a child. One day, she became sick with the measles, but she was sent out to check the traps anyway. When she returned, she was very ill. She was sent home to her mother to recover. It took her several weeks to recover, but at least she was home for a while.
Harriet Tubman Biography Contents
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- Overview and Interesting Facts
- Born into Slavery
- Early Life as an Enslaved Person
- 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
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