Harriet Tubman faced a great deal of adversity in her life. She was born a slave on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 1820 and called Araminta Ross. When she was around five years old, she began working alongside her mother as a field hand. Harwayne Hodges, author of “Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Self,” says that this work began her lifelong struggles with illness and injury. In addition to the 12-hour days spent in the fields, she suffered from illnesses such as malaria and smallpox. She also endured sexual assault by plantation owners and overseers, who believed they could do anything to the slaves under their command.
Harriet managed to escape slavery at age twenty-nine when she fled to Philadelphia with her infant daughter and two other men. She later returned to Maryland to help others escape slavery by leading them along the Underground Railroad. Through this work, she was able to save hundreds of lives—and earned the title “Moses” for her tireless efforts to lead the oppressed out of bondage.
Harriet Tubman continued to fight for social justice following the Civil War. During this time, she advocated for women’s rights and worked to recruit black soldiers during the war effort.