Around 1820, Araminta Ross was born a slave on a plantation in Bucktown, Maryland. As a child, she became known by her mother’s name, Harriet. In 1844, she was forced by her owner to marry a fellow slave, John Tubman. In 1849, Harriet Tubman left her husband and escaped to Philadelphia through the Underground Railroad, metaphor for a loosely organized system set up by Northern abolitionists, both black and white. She soon became a “conductor” on the railroad and made as many as 18 trips back to Maryland during the 1850s, helping to free more than 300 slaves. This was extremely dangerous, since the U.S. Congress had passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, making it a crime to assist runaway slaves. Although rewards for her capture once totaled about $40,000, Harriet was able to repeatedly outwit all slave-catchers. In 1857, she even succeeded in leading her parents to freedom, delivering them safely to Auburn, New York. Soon afterwards she met with radical abolitionist John Brown, learning that he planned to liberate the slaves through armed intervention. But after capturing the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Brown was arrested and hanged on December 2, 1859. During the Civil War, she served as a nurse, scout and spy for the Union Army in South Carolina. When the war ended, she returned to Auburn and helped raise money for Negro schools, as well as working to establish a home for needy blacks. The home opened in 1908 and became known as the Harriet Tubman Home.
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