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updated: 1/25/2011 9:10 AM

Kids Ink: Harriet Tubman lived full life of helping slaves

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  • Harriet Tubman escaped slavery and later led as many as 300 slaves on harrowing journeys through slave states to reach freedom. When the Civil War broke out in 1860, Tubman worked as a cook, nurse and spy for the Union army.

      Harriet Tubman escaped slavery and later led as many as 300 slaves on harrowing journeys through slave states to reach freedom. When the Civil War broke out in 1860, Tubman worked as a cook, nurse and spy for the Union army.
    Courtesy NYHISTORY.COM

  • After the Civil War, Harriet Tubman established a home for aging African-Americans on her property in Auburn, New York. The home is now owned and operated by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and is open to the public for tours.

      After the Civil War, Harriet Tubman established a home for aging African-Americans on her property in Auburn, New York. The home is now owned and operated by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and is open to the public for tours.
    Courtesy NYHISTORY.COM

 

Third-graders in Jennifer Janik's class at Big Hollow Elementary School in Ingleside asked: "How did Harriet Tubman die?"

Born around 1820 into slavery on a plantation in Maryland, Harriet Tubman is a most remarkable American hero.

She escaped slavery and later led as many as 300 slaves on harrowing journeys through slave states to reach freedom. When the Civil War broke out in 1860, Tubman worked as a cook, nurse and spy for the Union army.

After the war, she established a home for aging African-Americans on her property in Auburn, New York, which is now owned and operated by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and is open to the public for tours.

"She always lived in the possibility to get whatever she needed to live by," said Harriet Tubman tour coordinator and guide Christine Carter from the Harriet Tubman Home. "She was never ashamed or afraid to help others."

Tubman's first foray to freedom was in 1849. She was afraid that she would be sold to another plantation owner so she fled to Philadelphia. She learned there about the Underground Railroad, a network of people who agreed to help slaves reach communities that would allow them to live as free men, women and children.

Despite personal danger and the risk of imprisonment, she returned to the South to help her family members and other slaves escape.

It was illegal to help slaves run away from their owners. Laws required jail time for anyone who helped feed, shelter or otherwise assist escaped slaves. Captured slaves would be returned to their owners.

Tubman's unwavering dedication and incredible success as a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad prompted some to call her "Moses," after the biblical prophet who led the Jews out of Egypt by parting the Red Sea.

Harriet Tubman lived a very long life despite dizzy spells and extended sleeping periods caused by a head injury she received when, at 12, her owner struck her with a weight. In 1913, she died of pneumonia.

Harriet Tubman was buried with military honors. Her legacy includes a World War II ship named in her honor, the SS Harriet Tubman, which was christened by Eleanor Roosevelt, and a U.S. Post Office commemorative stamp. Many schools throughout the nation are named for her.

Carter says that Tubman's grandnieces and grandnephews still live near her property. Each year, about 10,000 -- 12,000 visitors make their way to Auburn, New York, to tour Harriet Tubman's home and visit her burial site.

For details about The Harriet Tubman Home, visit nyhistory.com/harriettubman/home.htm.

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