Harriet Tubman is known for her bravery and courage, helping hundreds of slaves escape to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Born Araminta Ross, she was a slave in Maryland, but escaped after an owner took her to a slave auction in 1849. She made the long journey to Philadelphia, where she joined other African Americans in the city’s free black community.
Undeterred by the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which allowed authorities to return runaway slaves to their owners, Tubman began making trips back into Maryland on the Underground Railroad. She returned again and again over a period of several years, rescuing family members and others from plantations in Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia. She also rescued her husband from his plantation just before he was sold away.
In total, Tubman helped around 300 people escape bondage through the Underground Railroad—it’s thought that this is only a fraction of those she helped since not every person she helped ever told anyone else about it. Her heroism led her to become known as “the Moses of her People.” She spent much of the Civil War acting as a spy for the Union Army; she met with President Lincoln twice and worked as a nurse in military hospitals.