This Day in Black History: Jan. 29, 1820

Harriet Tubman, who led hundreds of escaped slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad, was born.

Posted: 01/29/2013 07:00 AM EST

(Photo: MPI/Getty Images)

American abolitionist Harriet Tubman was believed to be born in Dorchester County, Maryland, on Jan. 29, 1820. She would go on to successfully guide hundreds of runaway slaves to freedom as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. She is renowned as one of the greatest American heroes in history.

Born a slave, she was originally named Araminta Harriet Ross. In 1844, she married a free Black man named John Tubman, taking his surname. Like many slaves of the era, she would face unspeakable brutality, including being struck by with a two-pound weight that would cause permanent head trauma.

Tubman escaped from slavery in 1849. She would return to the South to help others do the same, relying on the secrete network of “safe houses” owned by other abolitionists to cross into Canada. Earning the nickname “Moses,” she allegedly made 19 trips and never lost a passenger.

In her later years, she would serve as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War. After the abolition of slavery in 1865, she spent her final days caring for former slaves at what would become the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged in Auburn, New York. Tubman died from pneumonia on March 10, 1913.


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