Death of Harriet Tubman

Death of Harriet Tubman

U.S. #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.

U.S. #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 worked for hired Tubman out 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 owner 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, he 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.

Item #M11249 pictures Tubman and the 1849 reward notice for her capture.

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.

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.

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

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.

Item #M11251 pictures Tubman with her family and rescued slaves.

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.

Item #M11252 – Tubman helped John Brown plan his raid on Harpers Ferry, though she didn’t participate.

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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10 responses to "Death of Harriet Tubman"

10 thoughts on “Death of Harriet Tubman”

  1. Some people are born to serve fellow beings. Their goal of life is service. In service they live and go to a place to continue serving even after leaving this visible world. Great inspiring real life story.
    Thanks Mystic for showing what is already there.

  2. It’s good to know more of the story – Thanks, Mystic. It is disappointing how much of this nations history as been glossed over or today, completely ignored, or changed.
    Another thing I find interesting is that another country, in this case Liberia, has done a great job in illustrating what some of America’s history contains… leaves me wondering “why”.
    Here’s a question for Mystic – does the US honor prominent or historical people of other countries in the postage rates of this country?

    • Liberia was founded by freed African American settlers in 1820; I lived and worked there for eight years in the 1970’s. The country became independent from the United States in 1847.


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