Historical Significance of Harriet Tubman - Essay Example

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1784 Words
Date:  2021-05-26

Harriet Tubman is a renowned American abolitionist, humanitarian and civil rights activists in the history of the United States. She was born a slave in the year 1820, under the name Araminta Ross, in a plantation that belonged to Edward Brodess in Maryland, Dorchester County. Tubmans mother, Harriet Green belonged to Mary Pattison Brodess whereas the father, Ben Ross belonged to Anthony Thomson. Having been a slave in childhood, her life was filled with hardship. Physical violence was the order of the day and she was constantly thrashed, events that caused her permanent physical injuries. She, in fact, watched her family get torn apart when May Brodess, their master sold out three of her sisters to distant plantations. Nevertheless, her desire to rescue her people grew by the day prompting her to escape 1849 (Humez, 11). She , however, went back to the south many times to rescue her family and other slaves, a move that saw her become known as the Moses of her people and gain historical significance in the American history. This paper critically analyzes events that made Tubman become a historical figure, giving evidence to support the role she played in each event.

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An Abolitionist

Firstly, it is of critical importance to note that Harriet was a principal abolitionist who freed hundreds of slaves through the famous Underground Road. At around 1844, Harriet was allowed by her master to get married to John Tubman, who was a free man, but she had to keep on working for her master. In 1849, her master died and she feared for her own fate especially now that she was a sickly slave of low economic status. This prompted Harriet to flee from slavery, by herself, on foot and during the night through a fraction of the Underground Railroad that had already been established (Humez, 19). She used the North Star and the instructions given by the people in the Underground Railroad to help her reach Pennsylvania. Her brothers too escaped but later on had second thoughts and returned back to Maryland. Upon reaching Pennsylvania, she engaged in odd kind of jobs as she planned her revisit to Maryland, to rescue her family members first and eventually everyone else who was ready.

In her quest for release to freedom, she became involved in the establishment of abolitionists organizations whose intentions were to provide safety and guidance to the escaping slaves. In 1950, Tubman made her first ever rescue mission, upon receiving a caution that her niece Kessiah and her children were to be sold out. She returned to Maryland and rescued her niece. In 1851, she went back to rescue her two brothers and other slaves. In her third journey, she intended to rescue her husband, but realized he had married a second free wife, and thus she decided to help other slaves to freedom. Each trip emboldened Harriet, especially since they were all successful, giving her more determination to rescue others. She became adept at avoiding capture and would always carry on her a long rifle, which she used for protection and to ensure the escapees did not lose their courage (Humez, 26). She often threatened them that if anyone who has contrary thoughts and wished to go back, then she would have no option but kill him or her.

After the 1850s Fugitive Slave Act was passed, Harriet moved from Philadelphia to other states such as the Ontario, Canada, St. Catharines among many others. She would settle the slaves that she had rescued in these stated giving them a fresh start in free life. She returned over and over again to rescue as many as she could, including her remaining brothers and parent in 18857, whom she settled in Auburn, Newyork. Through her 12 years of freedom, with the help of supporters such as William H. Seward, and before the American Civil War began, she was able to make Underground Railroad a major aspect in abolitionism and also a very active member in the movement (Humez, 30). She received support also from John Brown, who was a militant abolitionist that helped raise funds whenever needed. This, therefore, made Tubman a heroine especially to those she had freed.

A Civil War Nurse, Scout, and Spy

A second historical significance of Harriet Tubman was the fact that she was a civil war nurse, scout, and spy. The American Civil War broke out in the year 1861, at a time when Harriet was fully empowered. She saw an opportunity for Union victory which would serve as an important step in the slavery abolition (Chism, 47). She meanwhile worked with the Union army by doing whatever possible to help out the fugitive slaves arriving at the Union camp. Harriet served as a nurse offering to nurse both fugitives and soldiers alike. For example, she would prepare remedies to help soldiers ailing from dysentery using local plants. Sometimes, she would treat diseases such as smallpox, without herself getting affected, a phenomenon that made people believe she was blessed by God. Additionally, she would cook meals for the soldiers and freed slaves in the camp. At the beginning, the government used to offer her rations for her work, but with time, tension among the freed blacks continued to grow as they thought that she receives special treatment. This prompted her to give up her right to the supplies but instead, she obtained money by selling root beer and pies that she prepared during the evenings.

Additionally, Harriet was considered a spy and a scout behind the accomplice lines (Chism, 49). When an emancipation proclamation was declared by President Lincoln In 1863, Harriet took this as a chance to liberate people especially blacks from slavery. Her renewal of the support to overpower the confederacy saw her become endorsed as a leader of a band of scouts through Port Royal Land. She had full knowledge of the marshland and rivers in South Carolina, as they were analogous to those in Maryland, thus helping her make keen moves and subterfuge of the potential enemies. Harriet and her group worked with Edwin Stanton, as their key overseer, and studied the unfamiliar terrains, giving them relevant maps and reconnoitering the inhabitants (Chism, 51). She, later on, worked with James Montgomery, by giving him key intelligence information to help in the attack of Jacksonville Florida. She was the adviser during the Montgomery assault that aimed at collecting plantations in the Combahee River and freed over 700 slaves. This made her be crowned as the first American woman ever to lead an armed military raid. It has made her legacy to stand out among others in the American history.

A Humanitarian and Community Activist

It is critical to understand that Harriet Tubman historical significance is also due to her humanitarian and community activist programs. After the American civil war ended, Harriet made a return to Auburn, where she intended to take care of her family, her elderly parents and the other people who needed her help. She worked on various jobs and took in boarders to help her in the payment of the bills. She helped shelter these poor people despite her financial struggles. She took in a civil veteran, called Nelson Davis, as one of the people who needed shelter. He was a bricklayer in his first years at Auburn, but later they fell in love and got married in a Central Presbyterian Church, despite her spouse being 22 years younger. Harriet and her husband, remained together for 20 years and adopted a baby girl in the year 1874, called Gertie (Crewe, 230). Often, she was helped raise finances by the friends she had made during the abolition days, and they kept her moving. For example, one of her admirers called Sarah Hopkins Bradford wrote a bibliography on her that made her raise over 1,200 US dollars.

Her economic desperation grew acute by the day and saw her at one point fall a victim to some gold smugglers (Crewe, 233). The two men who claimed to have the gold which they promised to give at a reasonable price. Nonetheless, the con men lured her into believing their lies and drove her to the woods where she was knocked out using chloroform and all her money gone. People criticized the incident and this saw the Representatives Clinton and Gerry, advocate for the passing of a bill to compensate Tubman for the services she had rendered to the army as a spy, nurse, and a scout. Despite, the law failing, at first, thereafter, the law was signed by President William McKinley, which offered her financial help in terms of pension, compensation for her roles, and a widow of a Union soldier. She was passionate about community services, and at one point in 1903, she contributed a portion of her property to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church to be used to construct a home for the indigent colored people and the old (Crewe, 235).

A Suffragist Activist

Lastly, Harriet was a supporter of the Womens Suffrage Movement and a civil rights activist. She carried out activities intended to promote the cause of women suffrage in her later years of life. She attended meetings held by the suffragist organizations and often would find herself work alongside fellow celebrated women such as Emily Howland and Susan Anthony (Clinton, 2). She also traveled to different parts advocating for women voting rights, giving descriptions of her actions and sacrifices at the time of civil war as a way to show the need to embrace women's equality in the world. In one of the famous organizations established i.e., National Federation of Afro-American Women, she became the first woman to make a speech and held a key position in its foundation.

Conclusively, Harriet Tubman remains a highly celebrated heroine in the American history for her endless sacrifices to see a better nation. She fought for the abolition of slavery, offered her services during the civil war and also fought for the womens rights in her later years of life. Her humanitarian aspect saw her give out land for the establishment of a home for the aged, an action that showed how devoted she was at seeing other people get comfort and prosper even though it left her in financial turmoil. She died in 1903 and was buried with the full honors of the military. She maintains her position as a representative to a lasting symbol of self-sacrifice, patriotism, perseverance and humanitarian.

Works cited

Humez, Jean M. Harriet Tubman: The life and the life stories. Univ of Wisconsin Press, 2006.

Crewe, Sandra Edmonds. "Harriet Tubman's Last Work: The Harriet Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Negroes." Journal of gerontological social work49.3 (2007): 229-244.

Chism, Kahlil. "Harriet Tubman: Spy, Veteran, and Widow." OAH Magazine of History 19.2 (2005): 47-51.

Clinton, Catherine (JuneJuly 2004). "On The Road to Harriet Tubman". American Heritage Magazine. AmericanHeritage.com. 55 (3). Archived from the original on April 22, 2006. Retrieved 22 April 2016.

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Historical Significance of Harriet Tubman - Essay Example. (2021, May 26). Retrieved from https://midtermguru.com/essays/historical-significance-of-harriet-tubman-essay-example

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