Born a slave on the eastern shore of Maryland, Harriet Tubman fled north to freedom. There she joined the secret network of free blacks and white sympathizers who helped runaways – the “Underground Railroad.” She became a “conductor” who risked her life to lead her people to freedom. Tubman returned time after time to her native Maryland, bringing out her relatives and as many as 300 other slaves.
The shadowy figure of the conductor “Moses” became so feared that a huge reward was put on “his” head, for slaveowners did not at first believe a woman capable of such daring. Cool, resourceful, skilled in the use of disguise and diversions, she is said to have carried a pistol, telling the faint-hearted they must go on or die. Apparently only illness prevented Harriet Tubman from joining John Brown in the raid on Harper’s Ferry.
When the Civil War began, she worked among the slaves who fled their masters and flocked to Union lines. She organized many of them into spy and scout networks that operated behind Confederate lines from bases on islands off the coast of the Carolinas. After the war she devoted herself to caring for orphaned and invalid blacks, and worked to promote the establishment of freedmen’s schools in the South.