The song that slaves sang

Harriet Tubman was born in 1820 in Dorchester County, Maryland. Her birth name was Araminta Ross and was one of eleven children to Harriet and Benjamin Ross. She was born a slave and at age five or six, began to work as a house servant. About seven years later she was sent to work in the fields. She suffered from a head injury during her teen years that affected her for the rest of her life. While trying to block a fellow slave from being hit, she was smacked in the head with an iron weight. She suffered from seizures for the rest of her life. In 1844, Harriet married John Tubman, a free slave. She took his last name and decided to change her first name to Harriet in honor of her mother. Then in 1849, after discovering that she and her family/friends could be sold, she decided to runaway. Her husband refused to go along so she set out with her two brothers. Although they got scared and returned to the plantation, Harriet continued on with the North Star as her guide. Once she reached Philadelphia, she started a job as a household servant in order to earn money to help other slaves escape.


A drawing of Harriet - "Moses of her People"

WHO: Harriet Tubman was a runaway slave from Maryland who became known as the "Moses of her people." Putting herself in great danger for nearly ten years, she led hundreds of slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. She later became a leader in the abolitionist movement. During the Civil War she acted as a spy for the federal forces in South Carolina and a nurse.

WHAT: Harriet Tubman helped slaves escape into the free northern states or all the way to Canada. She is perhaps the most well-known of all the Underground Railroad's "conductors." During a ten-year span she made 19 trips into the South and escorted over 300 slaves to freedom. In addition, as she once proudly pointed out to Frederick Douglass, in all of her journeys she "never lost a single passenger."

WHERE: The Underground Railroad and a secret network of safe houses where runaway slaves could stay on their journey North to freedom. “Passengers” traveled by night with the help of whites and blacks. They followed the North Star in the sky to guide them to freedom.

WHEN: Harriet escaped in 1849. In 1857, she was able to help parents escape to Canada. By 1858, Tubman had led over 300 fugitive slaves to freedom.

WHY: Harriet was ready to help the Northern States in any way she could. Her vision was to give freedom to every black slave. Harriet was so determined to help other slaves escape; she broke the law in every slave state the she traveled through. Not only was it dangerous to be guiding runaway slaves, as there were rewards for capture, but there was an additional bounty offered for her capture, as she was a fugitive slave herself.

“Excepting John Brown -- of sacred memory -- I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than [Harriet Tubman]."-Frederick Douglas


• Her dangerous missions won the admiration of black and white abolitionists throughout the North. They continually provided her with funds to continue her activities of freeing hundreds of slaves as well as housing slaves as they continued their journey North.


• By 1856, Tubman's capture would have brought a $40,000 reward from the South. She was "stealing" the Southerner's slaves. On one occasion, she overheard some men reading her wanted poster, which stated that she was illiterate. She promptly pulled out a book and feigned reading it. The ploy was enough to fool the men.

A reward poster for returned slaves

The Underground Railroad

Harriet Tubman died in 1913 at the age of 93 in Auburn, New York

Lyrics to:

One night I dreamed I was in slavery,
'Bout eighteen fifty was the time,
Sorrow was the only sign,
Nothing around to ease my mind.
Out of the night appeared a lady,
Leading a distant pilgrim band.
"First mate," she yelled, pointing her hand,
"Make room on board for this young woman."

Singing: Come on up, mm mm mm, I got a lifeline
Come on up to this train of mine
Come on up, mm mm mm, I got a lifeline
Come on up to this train of mine.
She said her name was Harriet Tubman
And she drove for the underground railroad.

Hundreds of miles we travelled onward,
Gathering slaves from town to town,
Seeking every lost and found,
Setting those free who once were bound.
Somehow my heart was growing weaker,
I fell by the wayside's sinking sand.
Firmly did this lady stand,
Lifted me up and took my hand.

Singing: ....

Who are those children dressed in red?
They must be the ones that Moses led.

Harriet Tubman, although a hero to an immense amount of slaves, was not necessarily a significant reason as to why the nation divided and started the Civil War. Harriet helped slaves to escape, she did not cause any violent uprisings or physically harm anyone. For this reason, Harriet Tubman only should receive a TWO for being a significant cause of the war. Nonetheless, her persona was definitely a very significant one in aiding the North to the ultimate goal of abolishing slavery.


Billington, James H. "Harriet Tubman." The Library of Congress. 17 May. 2009. <>.

"Harriet Tubman." Africans in America. 17 May. 2009. <http://www,>.

Helgeson, Bruce . "Harriet Tubman." Teacher Link. 17 May. 2009. <>.

Larson, Kate C. "Harriet Tubman Biography." Harriet Tubman Life. 17 May. 2009. <>.