MLK Day 2018 – Harriet Ross Tubman

Born into slavery in 1820, Araminta “Minty” Ross, known to us as Harriet Ross Tubman, began to be “hired out” at the early age of five. Often beaten for being “headstrong,” at 13, while trying to protect a fellow farm worker, she was hit in the head by a metal weight thrown by an overseer. The severity of the injury would cause her to have seizures and headaches for the rest of her life. The injury would also cause her to have premonitions and vivid dreams. She would refer to these as “God communicating with her.”

In 1844, she married John Tubman, a free black man. Five years later, when her owner died, three of her sisters were sold. She and two of her brothers escaped and headed north using the Underground Railroad. With a $300 reward on their heads, her brothers had second thoughts and returned to the plantation. Araminta pressed on alone. She made it to Pennsylvania, a free state, where she honored her mother by taking her name, Harriet. She also took her husband’s last name, Tubman.

For the next twenty years she would work with her connections on the Underground Railroad to bring people north to the free states and to Canada. She would work with abolitionists like Thomas Garrett, Fredrick Douglass, and John Brown to end slavery. Brown called her “General Tubman.” During the Civil War, she would be a spy and recruiter of ex-slaves for the North. In 1863, Tubman became the first woman to lead an assault during the Civil War in the Combahee River Raid where 700 slaves where set free.

In 1898, at 78, she would become involved in the woman’s suffrage movement and then support of the aged. In 1903, she donated her home and property to be converted into a home for “aged and indigent colored people.” She passed in 1913.

Harriet Ross Tubman spent her life in the service of others, first as a slave, later by choice. Today, we honor her as one of many Americans with disabilities whose lives and legacies have made a difference in who we are as a nation.

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