Harriet Tubman - Facts

c. 1822 – March 10, 1913

Key facts about political activist, philanthropist, and Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman.

Portrait of Harriet Tubman

In July 1863, Harriet Tubman assisted Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Colored Infantry Regiment, in preparing for the Union assault during the Second Battle of Fort Wagner (July 18, 1863), which was commemorated in the 1989 Hollywood film “Glory.”  [Wikimedia Commons]

Also know as:

  • Araminta Ross

Birth Date:

  • c. 1822

Birth Location:

  • Dorchester County, Maryland


  • Benjamin Ross and Harriet Green


  • none


  • political activist, philanthropist

Career Summary:

  • Underground Railroad conductor; nurse, spy, scout for Union Army during the Civil War


  • John Tubman, Nelson Davis (aka Nelson Charles)


  • Minty

Place of Death:

  • Auburn, New York

Date of Death:

  • March 10, 1913

Place of Burial:

  • Fort Hill Cemetery, Auburn, New York


  • Harriet Tubman’s birth name was Araminta Ross
  • Harriet Tubman was born a slave on the plantation of Edward Brodess in Dorchester County, Maryland.
  • As a young slave girl, Harriet Tubman was hired out to work and was frequently beaten.
  • Around 1833, Harriet Tubman was struck in the head by a heavy metal object thrown at another slave. The injury afflicted her with severe headaches, seizures, and involuntary sleeping spells (narcolepsy) for the remainder of her life.
  • In 1844, Harriet Tubman married a free black man, John Tubman. At the time of her marriage, she changed her first name to Harriet, in honor of her mother, and she assumed Tubman’s surname.
  • On September 17, 1849, Harriet Tubman escaped bondage and fled to Philadelphia
  • In December 1850, Harriet Tubman made her first trip back to Maryland to rescue her niece, Kessiah, her niece’s husband, John Bowley, and their two children from slavery.
  • In 1851, Harriet Tubman returned to Maryland to convince her husband to join her in the North. She instead discovered that he had married another woman.
  • In 1851, Harriet Tubman moved to St. Catherines, Ontario.
  • Between 1850 and 1860, Harriet Tubman returned to Maryland between eleven and thirteen times, escorting about seventy slaves to freedom.
  • In 1858, Harriet Tubman met John Brown.
  • In 1858 or 1859, U.S. Senator William H. Seward sold Tubman a home in Auburn, New York, on affordable terms because he was a great admirer.
  • During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman traveled to South Carolina where she served as a nurse, scout, and spy for Union troops occupying the Atlantic coast.
  • On June 2, 1863, Harriet Tubman accompanied three Union gunboats transporting a raiding party commanded by Colonel James Montgomery up the Cohambee River. The successful mission destroyed several plantations, freed roughly 700 slaves, and bagged valuable food and supplies for Union forces.
  • In July 1863, Harriet Tubman assisted Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Colored Infantry Regiment, in preparing for the Union assault during the Second Battle of Fort Wagner (July 18, 1863), which was commemorated in the 1989 Hollywood film “Glory.”
  • In 1865, Harriet Tubman returned to her home in Auburn, New York.
  • After learning that her husband had been murdered in Maryland during the Civil War, Harriet Tubman married former slave Nelson Davis (aka Nelson Charles), who was at least twenty years her junior, on March 18, 1869.
  • In 1869, William Seward, Frederick Douglass, and Wendell Phillips sponsored the publication of Tubman’s biography entitled Scenes in the Life Of Harriet Tubman written by her friend, Sarah H. Bradford. Wealthy donors, including Gerrit Smith, underwrote the cost of the work, which netted Tubman with a windfall of over $1,200.
  • In 1874, Harriet Tubman and Nelson Davis adopted a baby girl named Gertie.
  • In 1886, a fire destroyed Harriet Tubman’s home in Auburn, New York.
  • In 1886, Sarah Bradford and other benefactors published a second biography of Tubman entitled Harriet Tubman, Moses of Her People. Proceeds from the book helped Tubman replace her incinerated home with a new brick structure, which her husband, who was a bricklayer, helped construct.
  • On October 18, 1888, Harriet Tubman’s husband Nelson Davis died.
  • Between 1888 and 1892, Harriet Tubman wrangled with federal authorities as she attempted to claim a widow’s war pension to which she was entitled. In 1892, the government relented and awarded her a payment of $8 per month.
  • In 1899, the federal government denied Harriet Tubman a military pension, but Congress brokered a compromise that increased her widow’s pension to $20 per month.
  • Despite being nearly destitute—sometimes living off of the generosity of Auburn’s citizenry—Harriet Tubman dedicated her life to assisting impoverished former slaves after the Civil War.
  • In 1896, Harriet Tubman risked her small life savings as the down payment for a mortgage on the twenty-five-acre tract of land next to the home that she purchased at auction.
  • In 1896, Harriet Tubman was the keynote speaker at the first meeting of the National Federation of Afro-American Women.
  • In 1898, Harriet Tubman delivered speeches in Boston, New York, and Washington to support women’s suffrage.
  • In 1903, Harriet Tubman donated the land next to her home to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, with the stipulation that she would hold a lifetime deed and that the site would be maintained as a home for “aged and indigent colored people.”
  • In 1908, the Harriet Tubman Home opened as a refuge for “aged and indigent colored people.”
  • Today the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged is maintained as a museum dedicated to preserving the humanitarian vision of its founder.
  • As Harriet Tubman aged, the headaches and buzzing she experienced as a result of the head injury she sustained as a youth intensified.
  • During the 1890s, Harriet Tubman underwent brain surgery at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital to relieve her headaches. Although the procedure did not eliminate her stabbing episodes, it reduced her discomfort.
  • Following an extended hospital stay in 1911, Harriet Tubman moved from her home to the facility that bore her name next door.
  • Harriet Tubman died on March 10, 1913, from pneumonia.