1978 13¢ Black Heritage: Harriet Tubman
US #1744 – Tubman was the first honoree in the Black Heritage Series.

Abolitionist and humanitarian Harriet Tubman died on March 10, 1913, in Auburn, New York.

The granddaughter of Africans brought to America in the chain holds of a slave ship, Harriet Tubman was born Araminta “Minty” Ross into slavery on a plantation near Cambridge, Maryland. As no definitive records were kept, she was believed to have been born between 1815 and 1825.

1995 32¢ Civil War: Harriet Tubman
US #2975k – Tubman stamp from the 1995 Civil War sheet

As a child, Tubman watched over her younger brother. When she was five or six, the family she was enslaved by hired Tubman out, first as nursemaid and later to a nearby farm. In her teen years, Tubman became deeply religious and experienced frequent visions she believed came from God, though some believe they may have been caused by a severe head injury.

In 1844, Tubman married a free black man named John Tubman. Around this time, she changed her name to Harriet to honor her mother. Five years later, when her enslaver sought to sell her, Tubman decided she wouldn’t allow them to decide her fate and planned her escape. On September 17, 1849, she and two of her brothers made their first attempt. However, her brothers had second thoughts and returned, with Tubman joining them. She then planned another escape on her own. This time she succeeded, taking the Underground Railroad to Philadelphia.

Vowing to help other slaves escape, Tubman made nearly 20 trips back to Maryland. Called “Moses” by her people, after the biblical figure who led the Jews out of Egypt, she became the most famous “conductor” of the Underground Railroad. Although no exact number is known, it is estimated that during the 1850s she helped more than 300 slaves escape to freedom. Rewards for her capture once totaled about $40,000. Remarkably, she was never caught, and never once during any of her rescue trips did anyone get left behind.

2013 Liberia Harriet Tubman Sheet of 4
Item #M11250 pictures Tubman, President Lincoln, Union General David Hunter (with whom she worked during the Civil War), and Susan B. Anthony.

At the start of the Civil War, Tubman’s abolitionist friends urged the Union Army to utilize her skills and knowledge. She worked for a time as a cook, nurse, and teacher for liberated slaves in refugee camps. Then, in February 1863, Union officials granted her free passage wherever she wanted to go, an honor rarely bestowed upon a civilian.

1982 BCP Combahee Ferry
Item #115369 – Commemorative cover marking bicentennial of raid at Combahee Ferry.

Tubman was then tasked with planning the raid at Combahee Ferry, aimed at freeing hundreds of slaves. Her first task was gathering intelligence and recruiting troops. Union generals gave her money to offer to slaves in South Carolina who could give her vital information such as how many slaves were in certain areas and the best spots to land for the raid. The raid began on June 2, with the Second South Carolina Volunteer Regiment and Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery traveling up the Combahee River in the gunboats Harriet A. Weed and John Adams. With Captain Hoyt and Tubman leading the way, the Union troops made three landings after destroying a pontoon bridge.

1978 13¢ Harriet Tubman Classic First Day Cover
US #1744 – Classic First Day Cover

The slaves at Combahee were hesitant at first. As Tubman pointed out, “They wasn’t my people.” They didn’t know any more about her than the white officers she worked with. But with the help of previously freed volunteers, she convinced them to board to the boats – over 750 of them. Of those freed slaves, about 100 joined the Union Army.

2017 49c National Museum of African American History and Culture
US #5251 – The National Museum of African American History and Culture has several items on display from Tubman’s life. These include a shawl gifted to her from Queen Victoria and her personal book of hymns.

After the war, Tubman returned to Auburn, New York, where she helped raise money for Black schools. She also joined the women’s suffrage movement, working with Susan B. Anthony. In 1908, she established the Harriet Tubman Home for elderly and needy Blacks. Three years later, she was in poor health and had to be admitted there herself. Patrons donated money to provide for her care after a newspaper described her as “ill and penniless.” Tubman died on March 10, 1913, surrounded by friends and family, telling them “I go to prepare a place for you.”

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  1. That stamp is 1st one (1978 Black Heritage Series) Now 40th Black Heritage Stamp is Dorothy Heights.

  2. Excellent Historical of Harriet with her unselfish love for her people, life long dedication & how she recruited potential Union soldiers during the Civil strife.

  3. Wow, what a courageous lady. I was familiar with her name but unaware of the story behind the name. Thank you Mystic.

  4. I am glad you are including these people of amazing courage and events that are so important in our country’s evolving attitudes.

  5. What an amazing woman. I knew a bit about Harriet Tubman but never really realized how brave she was. Thank you Mystic Stamp for this to my attention.


  6. For her successful accomplishments, how can she not be honored. Her legacy will always be remembered and honored.

  7. Very interesting. Seems this history for her is familiar. Maybe a TV documentary. She married Tubman but is shown with husband Davis. No mention of the husbands changing. She must have been very intuitive to avoid capture. Great Story:)

  8. thanks for sending such interesting stories ever day. I am always amazed at how much I did not know about these people and events. I agree with some of your other commentators, these stories should be read every day in schools.

  9. Thanks, Mystic, for providing this detail information on an obviously courageous woman whom I had only heard of but really did not know what it was she accomplished. A very interesting historical update !

  10. As Kay and Inge Johnson indicate. I too would like to see all of these ‘Day In History’ in a binder (s) and copies in schools and libraries, as others have suggested.

  11. This is such an excellent article telling a more complete history of the life of Harriet Tubman. I read that she did suffer a severe owner inflicted head injury during her time as a slave which lead to seizures.

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