Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, 1869. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)Harriet Tubman (ca. 1821–1913) was a former slave, abolitionist, and conductor for the Underground Railroad. Born into slavery on a Maryland plantation, Tubman married a free black man named John Tubman in 1844. In 1849, she escaped to Philadelphia, returning later for her husband. John had already remarried, however, and in 1850 Tubman led other members of her family to freedom. That journey was the first of nineteen to free slaves in Maryland. In her years as an Underground Railroad conductor, Tubman led nearly 300 slaves from Maryland to freedom in Canada. She also became a target of Maryland plantation owners, who offered $40,000 for her capture. During the Civil War, from 1862 to 1865, Tubman served as a scout and spy for Union forces. After the war, she applied for a Union pension for her service, which wasn’t granted for nearly thirty years. She also opened her Harriet Tubman Home for Indigent Aged Negroes, which continued in operation after her death.

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