what did Harriet Tubman do to end slavery what did Harriet Tubman do to end slavery

What Did Harriet Tubman Do to End Slavery? Unveiling Her Heroic Journey in 6 Simple Points

Born into the harsh world of slavery around 1822, Harriet Tubman emerged as a beacon of hope and freedom. In the era when such ideals were a far-off dream for many African Americans.

Raised amidst adversity in Dorchester County, Maryland, Tubman overcame significant personal limitations and oppression to become one of America’s most celebrated figures. She earned a place of honor on the proposed new design of the U.S. $20 bill.

Her role in the abolition of slavery and her relentless pursuit of liberty for all demonstrate her indomitable spirit and unwavering commitment to human rights. But, What did Harriet Tubman do to end slavery? 

1. Introduction to Harriet Tubman

Known as the “Moses of her people”, Tubman’s journey from an enslaved woman to a leader of the Underground Railroad is a testament to her courage and resilience. After enduring years of hard labor and physical abuse, she escaped and adopted a new name, Harriet, signifying the start of her new life.

But her quest for freedom didn’t stop with her own escape. She dedicated her life to leading others along the same path to emancipation, thus becoming a famed conductor of the Underground Railroad.

Harriet Tubman Square
Source- Shutterstock

Harriet Tubman’s Role in Abolition

Harriet Tubman’s contribution to the abolition movement was nothing short of extraordinary. As an abolitionist and suffragist, she championed the cause of freedom and equal rights. She became a symbol of resistance against the oppressive institution of slavery.

With a bounty on her head, she risked her life countless times to lead hundreds of enslaved people to freedom. She demonstrated her fearlessness and unwavering commitment to her cause.

Tubman is recognized as the first African American woman to serve in the military, further cementing her place in history.

In a society marked by racial and gender inequality, Harriet Tubman dared to defy the norms. Her legacy of bravery, resilience, and relentless pursuit of freedom continues to inspire generations. It reminds us that the fight for equality and justice is far from over.


2. Tubman’s Own Escape From Slavery

In the fall of 1849, Harriet Tubman, born into slavery as Araminta Ross, embarked on a perilous journey to escape her life of bondage. After an unsuccessful first attempt, she decided to brave the journey alone, leaving behind the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where she had spent her years in servitude.

The Adoption of a New Name

As part of her new life, the woman once known as Araminta adopted the name, Harriet. It was in honor of her mother, Harriet Green Ross. She also took on the last name of her husband, John Tubman.

This change marked a defining moment in her life, the beginning of her transformation into the legendary figure that we know today.

The Risks and Challenges of Her Journey

The path to freedom was fraught with dangers. The threat of being caught and punished loomed large over every step Tubman took. However, the physical danger was only one aspect of the challenges she faced.

  • At the age of seven, Tubman had been rented out to set muskrat traps and was later rented out as a field hand. By her own admission, she preferred the physical plantation work to indoor domestic chores.
  • This early hardship, coupled with a traumatic head injury inflicted by an overseer when she was twelve, left her with lifelong health issues, including narcolepsy and frequent headaches.
  • These conditions added an extra layer of difficulty to her escape, as they could cause her to fall into a deep sleep at any time.

Despite these obstacles, Tubman remained undeterred. With courage and determination, she found her way to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In this bustling city. She made connections with other black and white abolitionists who would play key roles in her future endeavors.

Her journey to freedom was fraught with peril, but it was these very hardships that shaped her into the fearless leader and devoted abolitionist we remember today.


3. The Underground Railroad and its Impact

The Underground Railroad, despite its name, was neither underground nor a railroad. This clandestine network functioned as a series of secret routes and safe houses. This enabled enslaved people to escape from the American South towards freedom in the North.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad visitor center
Source- Shutterstock
  • The term “Underground Railroad” was metaphorical, encapsulating the secretive nature and purpose of the network.
  • Encompassing homes, barns, churches, and businesses, it served as a beacon of hope for those yearning for liberation.
  • The structure of this covert system was akin to a traditional railroad. Individuals who guided runaway slaves along these routes were referred to as “conductors“.
  • Safe places that provided shelter to escapees were known as “stations.”
  • The people offering refuge were termed “station masters“.
  • Those journeying toward freedom were called “passengers” while those who arrived at safe houses were referred to as “cargo“.

Between 1810 and 1850, according to some estimates, the Underground Railroad facilitated the escape of approximately 100,000 enslaved individuals to the North.

This impressive figure is accompanied by the understanding that the Railroad’s operations were fraught with danger, demanding courage, resilience, and determination from both the escapees and the people aiding their journey.

Impact on the Abolition Movement

Although only a small fraction of Northerners actively participated in the Underground Railroad. Its mere existence played a significant role in triggering sympathy for the plight of the enslaved among Northerners.

On the other hand, it fuelled resentment among many Southerners, who perceived this as a direct challenge to the institution of slavery.

The Underground Railroad was at the heart of the abolitionist movement and served to intensify the divisions between the North and the South. It highlighted the stark contrast in attitudes towards slavery in these two regions, setting the stage for the Civil War.

The imagery and stories associated with the Underground Railroad – dark passages, dangerous routes, and dramatic escapes – resonated strongly with the public and inspired numerous narratives. They kept the issue of slavery and its abolition in public discourse.

Historians continue to explore the myths and realities of the Underground Railroad. Some argue that much of its activities were carried out openly, even in broad daylight. It challenges the widely accepted notion of it being entirely secretive.

Despite these debates, the Underground Railroad’s contributions to the abolitionist movement and the eventual end of slavery are indisputable. It stands as a testament to the extraordinary lengths humans will go to in their quest for freedom and equality.


4. Tubman’s Role as a Conductor

Harriet Tubman, often referred to as ‘Moses‘, was indeed one of the most reputable conductors of the Underground Railroad. Her journey towards freedom wasn’t limited to just her escape from slavery but extended to the rescue missions she carried out multiple times risking her life to bring others to freedom as well.

An in-depth look at Tubman’s Work Leading Others to Freedom

Harriett Tubman mural
By Kirt Morris from Unsplash/ Copyright 2020

One can begin to grasp the magnitude of Tubman’s heroism by looking at the specifics of her rescue missions. After escaping from Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 1849, she returned there multiple times over the next decade. Each time, she led groups of slaves, sometimes even across the border to Canada, on a treacherous journey toward freedom.

One particular rescue mission, often celebrated, is that of Charles Nalle in April 1860. Nalle had escaped slavery in Culpepper, Virginia but was arrested in Troy, New York where Tubman was visiting.

Accounts credit Tubman with taking a lead role in his rescue, an event she later recounted at a Women’s Rights Convention in Boston.

Examination of the Risks Tubman Took in Returning to Maryland Multiple Times

The risks Tubman took in returning to Maryland multiple times cannot be overstated. Not only was she risking her own safety and freedom, but she was also endangering those who were helping her.

Every trip back to Maryland was a direct defiance of the Fugitive Slave Act, which threatened the freedom of all escaped slaves and anyone aiding them.

Despite this, Tubman succeeded in guiding many slaves to freedom. This earned her the nickname “Moses” for her prowess in navigating routes, knowing safe houses, and identifying trustworthy people who could assist those fleeing from slavery.

Harriet Tubman’s story as a conductor on the Underground Railroad is a testament to her boldness, tenacity, and unwavering commitment to freedom. She not only escaped from the chains of slavery but also risked her life to ensure others could do the same.

She became a beacon of hope and courage for many generations to come. Her heroism and determination remain an inspiration today, reminding us of the power of resilience and the pursuit of justice.


5. Tubman’s Advocacy and Speeches

Harriet Tubman, much revered for her role as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, was more than just an escape artist. She was a voice of change, a relentless advocate for abolition and women’s rights.

In the late 1850s, she used her speeches at anti-slavery and women’s rights conventions. She used to recount her personal experiences of slavery, her escape, and her endeavors to rescue others.

Through her speeches, she stressed the need to fight for freedom and equal rights, thus solidifying her status as a potent force in these movements.

But, documenting Tubman’s speeches posed significant challenges. For one, she was often introduced under a pseudonym to protect her from being captured and returned to slavery under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act. As such, newspaper articles about her speeches were rare.

Furthermore, unlike other abolitionist speeches, hers were described and briefly quoted rather than printed in full. This was largely because Tubman was illiterate, precluding the possibility of written copies of her speeches being available.

Impact of Tubman’s Speeches

Despite these hurdles, the impact of Tubman’s speeches cannot be understated. They provided first-hand accounts of the horrors of slavery.

This made it harder for people to ignore or downplay the issue. Even without full transcripts, the snippets of her speeches that were reported were enough to stir the hearts and minds of those who heard them.

For instance, her inspiring words, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world” continue to motivate individuals to strive for change even today.

After the Civil War, Tubman continued her advocacy work in Auburn, New York. She championed women’s suffrage and civil rights, demonstrating her unwavering commitment to equality and justice. Her speeches, her advocacy, and her tireless work toward her cause made her a figure of inspiration and admiration in American history.


6. Tubman’s Legacy and Continued Influence

As we reflect on the remarkable life of Harriet Tubman, it’s impossible to overlook her enduring influence. Dubbed the “Moses of her people,” Tubman’s legacy has transcended time, becoming an integral part of the narrative of American history1.

She was not just a conductor on the Underground Railroad, but also a scout, spy, guerrilla soldier, and nurse during the Civil War. In each of these roles, Tubman exhibited unflinching courage, resilience, and a deep commitment to freedom.

One of the most striking aspects of Tubman’s legacy is her success as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Over a span of ten years, she made 19 trips into the South, guiding over 300 slaves to freedom.

Despite the immense danger, not a single passenger was lost in any of her missions.

Tubman’s Advocacy and Philanthropy

After the Civil War, Tubman continued her advocacy work by speaking out for women’s suffrage. She also demonstrated her philanthropic spirit by opening her home to anyone in need, supporting herself through farming and donations from friends.

In 1896, she opened the Harriet Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Colored People, demonstrating her lifelong commitment to helping others.

Inspiration for Modern Civil Rights Movements

The influence of Harriet Tubman extends far beyond her lifetime. Her unwavering determination and bravery continue to inspire modern civil rights movements today. The story of her life serves as a testament to the power of resilience and the pursuit of freedom. It reminds us all of the lengths that were taken to secure the rights and liberties we often take for granted today.

Despite being born into slavery, Tubman fought against the odds to become a beacon of hope and freedom. Her strength of character, evident even in her youth, remained constant throughout her life, inspiring countless generations of activists.

As we continue to fight for equality and justice today, we carry with us the indomitable spirit of Harriet Tubman, a testament to the lasting power of her legacy.



Who was Harriet Tubman?

Harriet Tubman was an African American woman born into slavery. Later became an American abolitionist and social activist.

What were Harriet Tubman’s major accomplishments?

Escape from Slavery, Conductor on the Underground Railroad, Civil War Service, Advocacy for Abolition and Women’s Rights, and Establishment of the Harriet Tubman Home were her major accomplishments.

How did Harriet Tubman contribute to the abolitionist movement?

She spoke at numerous anti-slavery and women’s rights conventions, recounting her personal experiences and urging others to join the fight for freedom and equality

What role did Harriet Tubman play in the Underground Railroad?

She became a highly respected “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, guiding enslaved people to freedom.

Did Harriet Tubman ever get caught or captured during her missions?

No, she was never captured during her missions.

How did Harriet Tubman continue her activism after the abolition of slavery?

After the abolition of slavery, Harriet Tubman continued her activism by advocating for women’s suffrage and civil rights. She spoke at numerous women’s rights conventions, urging others to join the fight for gender equality.

What is Harriet Tubman’s legacy and impact on American history?

Tubman’s legacy continues to inspire generations. Her life story serves as a testament to the power of resilience and the pursuit of freedom. It reminds us of the lengths that were taken to secure the rights and liberties we often take for granted today.


What Did Harriet Tubman Do to End Slavery? A Conclusion

As we draw this narrative to a close, it is impossible to overlook the monumental contribution of Harriet Tubman to the abolition of slavery. Known as the “Moses of her people,”

Tubman was an enslaved woman who not only secured her own freedom but dedicated her life to liberating others. As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Tubman led an estimated 300 enslaved individuals to freedom, demonstrating extraordinary courage, ingenuity, persistence, and iron discipline throughout her quest.

Her heroism wasn’t confined to the Underground Railroad alone. Tubman also served as a nurse, scout, spy, and guerrilla soldier for the Union Army during the Civil War. Her knowledge and experience from her time on the Underground Railroad proved invaluable to the Union’s cause. She tirelessly worked on multiple fronts, always driven by the singular goal of freedom and equality.

Harriet Tubman’s journey from an enslaved person to a national hero is a testament to human resilience and the ceaseless fight for justice.

Her legacy continues to inspire countless individuals across the world, reminding us all that change is possible when we are willing to stand up against injustice and fight for what is right.