Estimated around 1820, Harriet Tubman was born to slave parents on a plantation in Dorchester County, Maryland. She began protecting others at a very young age; she was struck on her head while she was protecting another slave from punishment when she was just thirteen years old. As an adult, Tubman escaped to the North from her master and continued to come back to the south and aid others through the Underground Railroad. Harriet Tubman was the most effective conductor in the Underground Railroad due to her extensive knowledge about the routes and her timing of traveling mostly at night.
The terror of slavery led Harriet Tubman to escape to the North and her passion to help remove others from their circumstances. “Slavery is a system in which people are treated as property and can be bought and sold with no ability to be free. This system existed in the United States from early 17th century until about 1865. Slaves were subject to harsh living treatments, mistreatment from their owners, and enjoyed few of the rights or freedoms so fiercely protected by white Americans” (Newman). Slavery impacted many people, Tubman included, and she risked her life everyday to save and rescue as many people as she could.
It was this courage that fueled the Underground Railroad. Slaves worked hard, “long hours of physical labor. For a field hand, the workday usually began before dawn and ended well after sunset, often with a two-hour break for the noon meal”(“Pre-Civil”). This brought Tubman to remove herself from the harshness of slavery. Though she began as a prisoner to slavery, she became a leader in the fight against it.
“The abolition movement was the efforts to end slavery in the United States as early as the late eighteenth century… hese reform movements which sought to improve or perfect human society by eliminating any evil the reformers believed was an affront to the moral and spiritual health of the nation” (Berlet). With her belief that all men and women are created equal, Harriet Tubman led her life trying to prove her believes to the world one person at a time. “Hailed as “the Moses of her people” because of her courageous rescues of hundreds of slaves on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman was a living symbol of the resistance of African Americans to slavery in the United States” (“Harriet Tubman”).
She helped slaves, for many years, by guiding them with their escape using the underground railroad. The underground railroad was not actually a railroad at all. It did, however, guide fugitive slaves out of the south to the North or Canada in order to gain freedom. Slaves were led along the underground railroad by people called conductors. A conductor was a free American who guided slaves from the South in order to save them from the harsh, cruel conditions of slavery.
As a conductor “Harriet Tubman helped slaves elude capture by hiding them at safe houses and other secret places, known as stations on the railroad” (“Underground Railroad”). Some conductors, such as Harriet Tubman, were former slaves that escaped slavery using the underground railroad and continually returned to help others do the same. “Not long after her safe arrival in Philadelphia, Tubman began making trips to the South to help other slaves escape on the Underground Railroad” (McGuire). Although dangerous, Tubman and other conductors risked their lives everyday to help slaves.
Many white Americans put a tremendous reward for Tubman’s capture. She continued to help people after the war. “The importance of Tubman’s work as an abolitionist was acknowledged in 2013, when President Barack Obama designated a portion of Maryland’s Eastern Shore as the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, the first national monument to honor an African American woman” (McGuire). However, wasn’t Harriet Tubman successful in the Underground Railroad due to her fellow conductors and her weapons she carried for protection?
It would definitely make sense that people would believe she was successful for these reasons. However, what this argument fails to consider is her extensive knowledge about the routes of the Underground Railroad and her timing of traveling mostly at night. As stated previously, many believe that Tubman’s fellow conductors are the reason she saved so many people. For example, Thomas Garrett, a conductor that worked with Tubman, led slaves out of Maryland. “Tubman and other conductors led people to Garrett’s house.
Garrett would then arrange to move the group on to southern Pennsylvania. He forwarded many people to Philadelphia, where there was a very active Abolition Society and many people who worked with the Underground Railroad”(Underground Railroad Library). Another example, William Still, a free black man, helped numerous people in the East. “He received many fugitives from Maryland, where his mother was born. He helped fugitives who stayed in Philadelphia find homes and jobs.
He arranged for many escaping slaves to continue their journey on to Canada” (Underground Railroad Library). Although everyone’s role in the underground railroad was important, Harriet Tubman’s personality would have lead her to help people no matter her situation. She was very religious; her actions were led by God. Tubman continuously did what was right, despite the consequences she could face. Many people also believe that Harriet Tubman was successful in the underground railroad, because she carried weapons for protection. She always carried weapons to defend herself and her group in case they were attacked” (Underground Railroad Library). Although helpful, her ability to defend from attacks was not as useful as her skills in navigating and timing of her expeditions. So, although it was useful that Tubman was aided by other conductors and carried weapons for protection, she was the most effective conductor due to her extensive knowledge about the routes of the Underground Railroad and her timing of traveling mostly at night.
Harriet Tubman was described as a conductor in William Still’s novel, The Underground Railroad, as honest and unique. “Harriet Tubman had been their ‘Moses’… a woman of no pretensions, indeed, a more ordinary specimen of humanity could hardly be found among the most unfortunate-looking farm hands of the South”( Still 296). One reason Tubman excelled at guiding slaves was her knowledge of the routes of the underground railroad. She led numerous slaves to safe houses around the south.
She was “well acquainted in their neighborhood, and knowing of their situation, and havir confidence that they would prove true, as passengers on the Underground Railroad, engaged to pilot them within reach of Wilmington, at least to Thomas Garrett’s” (Still 531). Another reason Tubman was an excellent conductor was the fact that she usually traveled at night. Harriet Tubman “was one of the most famous Underground Railroad conductors… She usually traveled at night. It was safer when it was dark and when fewer people were outside working or going from one place to another.
At night, she could follow the North Star… It is estimated that she led several hundred people to freedom. It is said that she never lost a single passenger” (Underground Railroad Library). This intelligence probably saved her life and the amount of people she could have rescued. In conclusion, Harriet Tubman’s role in the underground railroad saved about 300 slaves. She was the most effective conductor in the underground railroad due to her extensive knowledge about the routes and her timing of traveling mostly at night.
Tubman was always compelled to help people and fulfill her belief that all men and women are created equal. Tubman said, “I had reasoned this out in my mind: There was two things I had a right to, liberty and death. If I could not have one, I would have the other, for no man should take me alive” (“Harriet”). This direct quote from Tubman illustrates her viewpoint that everyone deserves life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and she was willing to risk her life to help people get their freedom.