Harriet Tubman

"You'll be free or die!"

Harriet Tubman Harriet "Moses" Tubman - Freedom fighter against slavery both before and during the Civil War.

"You'll be free or die!"

Born into slavery in Maryland in 1820, Harriet Tubman freed herself and countless others on the Underground Railroad.  She appeared to be just an ordinary woman, but her courage and determination to help her fellow African-Americans sets her apart in history.

Researcher Rachel Salhman tells us "Harriet Ross was born in Dorchester County, Maryland in 1820. Her parents were from the Ashanti tribe of West Africa, and they worked as slaves on the Brodas plantation. In addition to producing lumber, Edward Brodas raised slaves to rent and sell. Life was difficult on the plantation, and Harriet was hired out as a laborer by the age of 5."  Rachel Salhman goes on to provide excellent detail about Harriet Tubmans life and some insight into the personality of this great woman.  Please visit Rachel Salhman's article  posted on the web site at Spectrum Magazine

New York History Net tells us that Harriet Tubman apparently "suffered narcolepsy as a result of the head injury she sustained as a child" at the hands the slave foreman who hit her on the head with a lead weight for helping a fellow slave.  Dictionary.com describes narcolepsy as "A disorder characterized by sudden and uncontrollable, though often brief, attacks of deep sleep, sometimes accompanied by paralysis and hallucinations."  This did not stop Harriet Tubman's determination to lead her people to freedom and the New York History Net article tells us that Harriet Tubman "threatened to shoot any of her charges who thought to turn back".  Please take the time to review the published material of the New York History Net as it provides a nice excerpt from William Still's published work called The Underground Railroad as well as her life in New York after the Civil War.

Russell Smith writes in an article originally published in the Sweetwater Reporter News April 5, 1992 that Harriet Tubman was the greatest single conductor in the history of the Underground Railroad. An escaped slave herself, Tubman earned the nickname "Moses" for her heroic exploits in leading slaves to the promised land. Returning nineteen times to the dangerous South, Tubman led more than 300 slaves to freedom, including her own aged parents. Enraged Southern planters offered $40,000 for her capture without success. The wily and fearless Tubman carried a pistol on her freedom raids and if a slave had second thoughts about escaping she pulled her gun and said: "You'll be free or die!"  Tubman was widely read about and talked about, although she herself was unable to read or write. Two of her most famous sayings were: "Lord, you have been with me through six troubles. Be with me in the seventh." And "I nebber run my train off de track and I nebber lost a passenger." Tubman's amazing successes sprang in part from her quick and inventive mind. On one occasion, fearing pursuers were close at hand, she and her fugitives boarded a southbound train to avoid suspicion. On another rescue mission, Tubman had just purchased some live chickens when she saw her former master. She threw down the chickens and chased after them before he could recognize her.

Spectrum Magazine presents Rachel Salhman's research on Harriet Tubman

National Geographic presents the Underground Railroad.

The Harriet Tubman home

Russell Smith's article originally published in the Sweetwater Reporter News April 5, 1992

Posted by Contact on Monday February 12, 2001.