- Cultural Calendar
In 1990, Harriet Tubman Day was finally enacted as a national holiday by the United States Congress a gesture to celebrate her heroic work in freeing enslaved people as well as toward the overall abolishment of slavery in America.
As it was for thousands of others born into slavery, Harriet Tubman’s date of birth was unknown. She is believed to have been born in March, at some point between 1820 and 1822, to Benjamin Ross and Harriet Green, on a plantation in Dorchester Country in New Maryland. Her birth name was Araminta ‘Minty’ Ross — she did not change her name to Harriet Tubman until after her first marriage.
Harriet’s early life was grim; she began work as a house servant at around age 5, and by age 12, she was assigned to work in the fields. In her early teen years, she attempted to protect a field hand from the anger of an overseer, who threw a two-pound weight that instead hit Harriet on the head, instead, causing an injury that would affect her for the rest of her life.
Harriet married a free Black man around 1845, taking his name and changing her name to Harriet in honor of her mother. She became a free woman at last in 1849, when, fearing that she and other enslaved people were about to be sold, she finally succeeded in escaping from the plantation. Once free, she then spent the next ten years tirelessly working to free other slaves on the Underground Railroad, making 19 trips back into the South that wanted her enslaved or dead in order to escort slaves to newfound freedom.
Harriet rescued over 300 formerly enslaved individuals – including, eventually, her own parents. In her work for the Union, Harriet Tubman was a rescuer of those still trapped in slavery who also worked as a cook, a nurse, and even as a spy. After the end of the Civil War, she settled down in Auburn, New York, where she would live until her passing in 1913, at more than 90 years of age.
Learn more details about Harriet Tubman in our longer Medium article, over at https://medium.com/@PSESD121/youll-be-free-or-die-the-courage-of-harriet-tubman-9572931675b6.