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Harriet Tubman

The Road to Freedom

By Catherine Clinton
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Harriet Tubman by Catherine Clinton

Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom (2004) sheds light on the fascinating life of Harriet Tubman, a pioneering woman who not only escaped the bonds of slavery, but also helped hundreds of others do the same. In addition, the book offers insights on the vital role she played in the American Civil War, and in the fight for equal rights for women and African-Americans.

Key idea 1 of 10

While the life of Harriet Tubman is shrouded in mystery, there are some facts we can be sure of.

Do you know who Harriet Tubman was? Many of us know that she was born a black slave, but that’s one of just a few facts that we can be entirely certain about; the life of Harriet Tubman remains shrouded in mystery.

We know that Tubman’s birth name was Araminta Ross. She was born near Bucktown, Maryland, but her birth year and date are still contested today. As was the case for most people born into slavery, Tubman’s birth was undocumented. Tubman herself believed that she was born in 1825; most historians suggest, however, that she was born in 1820 or 1822.

We know a little of Tubman’s family. Her mother’s name was Harriet Green, and her father was Benjamin Ross. It’s likely that Tubman was one of ten siblings, though reports of how many children there were in the family conflict with each other, too.

One thing that was true for most families of slaves is that they were at constant risk of being torn apart. Slave masters were uncertain about the benefits and risks of slaves forming families. On one hand, they needed women like Harriet Green to give birth to more slaves, since America’s involvement in the international slave trade had ended in 1808.

On the other hand, pregnant women were seen as a liability. Many even ended up being sold off for the simple reason that they were pregnant, as this prevented the women from performing many physical tasks. Most often, slave masters cared little for families and sold children to Georgia traders. These were slave traders from the South who would travel to Maryland and purchase more slaves for plantations in their home states.

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