Harriet Tubman was born to enslaved parents in Dorchester, Maryland, some time in the early 1820’s. Physical violence was a part of daily life for Tubman and her family. The violence she suffered early in life caused permanent physical injuries. She successfully escaped from slavery in 1849. Yet she returned many times to rescue both family members and non-relatives from the plantation system. She led hundreds—some say as many as 1,000 people—to freedom in the North as the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad.
Tubman remained active during the Civil War. Working for the Union Army as a cook and nurse, Tubman quickly became an armed scout and spy. The first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, she guided the Combahee River Raid, which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.
Later in life, Tubman bought a small parcel of land in Auburn, NY, which became a haven for Tubman’s family and friends. She spent the years following the war on this property, tending to her family and others who had taken up residence there.
Tubman died in 1913, surrounded by family and friends, in a home for the aged named in her honor.
The Treasury Department announced this week that Harriet Tubman’s likeness will be printed on the new $20 bill, replacing Andrew Jackson, a slaveholder who played a role in the removal of Native Americans from their land.
Reflecting back on her first taste of freedom, Tubman wrote, “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”
The above biography is condensed and adapted from biography.com.