TUBMAN, HARRIET Born a slave in Maryland in the early 1820's, Harriet Tubman went on to become one of the leading "conductors" of the so-called Underground Railroad. In 1849, she ran away from her master and, after a harrowing journey through Delaware and New Jersey, ultimately reached Philadelphia. From that point on, she dedicated herself to aiding other enslaved blacks escape the bonds of servitude via the Underground Railroad.
Although her "freedom" was relatively secure in Philadelphia, Tubman personally was to return to slaveholding states at least nineteen times to lead others, including most of her own family, to freedom. It has been estimated that at least three hundred black slaves escaped to freedom as the result of these trips. Although rewards totaling $40,000 were offered for her capture, Tubman repeatedly outwitted slave-catchers and bounty-hunters. Moreover, she never lost a slave in transit. Once a "trip" was arranged and begun, she categorically refused to allow any wavering "passenger" to turn back, threatening to shoot on the spot anyone that tried.
Known variously as "General Tubman," the "Moses of Her People," and "Black Moses," Harriet Tubman later voluntarily served in the Union army as a nurse, spy and scout during the Civil War. Owing to her previous experience as an Underground Railroad "conductor" and her familiarity with the terrain, she was particularly useful in her capacity as military scout. Following the war, Tubman married a young war veteran and, upon his death in 1890, received a meager widow's pension of eight dollars a month (later increased to $20). Most of this money was used to support a home for elderly and needy African Americans in Auburn, New York. As a result, Harriet Tubman died penniless in 1913.