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Famous women

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman, around 1895Harriet Tubman, around 1895 American anti-slavery and women's rights' campaigner Harriet Tubman (1820–1913) escaped slavery to become one of the leading abolitionists in the time before the American Civil War. She led hundreds of slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad and served in the Union forces during the Civil War. In later life she spoke out for women’s suffrage. Her bravery and generosity of spirit has continued to inspire generations of Americans.


A slave sale in VirginiaA slave sale in Virginia

Early life

Harriet Tubman was born to enslaved parents in Dorchester County, Maryland, around 1820. Her birth name was Araminta "Minty" Ross; she later changed her first name to Harriet after her mother. She was put to work as a house servant at around the age of five or six years old, and experienced physical violence, including whippings, from that time. 


A drawing showing slaves turning on their mastersA drawing showing slaves turning on their masters

As a teenager she suffered an injury that was to affect her for the rest of her life. On an errand to a store, she came across a slave who had left the fields without his master’s permission. When the man’s overseer ordered Harriet to help him restrain the runaway, Harriet refused. The overseer threw a heavy weight at the slave, but it missed and hit Tubman on the head, causing a severe injury. She never fully recovered from this, which caused her to have seizures and sudden attacks of sleepiness.

"John Brown's Body" is a US marching song about the abolitionist John Brown—Harriet's associate. The song was popular during the American Civil War.

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