For Black History Month, A More Perfect Blog will feature profiles of influential and heroic African-American leaders from our curriculum, Being An American: Exploring the Ideals That Unite Us. Use the profiles to start a class discussion on what makes a hero and how each of the people we describe is heroic.
Harriet Tubman, an enslaved field hand who could not read, escaped to freedom in 1849. Thirty years of poverty and abuse had left her small body battered and scarred. But her spirit was unstoppable. “There was one of two things I had a right to – liberty or death. If I could not have one, I would have the other,” she later said.
Not content with securing her own freedom, Tubman then turned to helping others escape. Although she faced death or re-enslavement if caught, Tubman became a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad in the 1850s. At first, she returned south to rescue her family. Over time, she saved hundreds of slaves. She was clever and gifted at avoiding capture, so successful that she was nicknames “Moses.” Nineteen times, she made the dangerous 650-mile journey from Maryland to Canada. She was never caught, and “never lost a passenger.”
During the Civil War, she became a scout, spy, nurse, and cook. She recruited freedmen to the Union cause and helped lead raids that freed hundreds more slaves. With unequaled courage, Tubman pursued liberty for every American, and in doing so became a legend.