In 1820, Benjamin Ross and Harriet Greene both slaves in Buck Town Maryland gave birth to Araminta Greene also born a slave. Araminta lived some 90 years of hardship and peerless journeys to free her people from slavery. Cruelty and unbearable living conditions were a norm for these times. First, we’ll need some background on the institution of slavery, which began in the early 15th and 16th century recorded in the ancient history of Babylon and Rome.
Portuguese explores living east of Africa provided slave labor for Whites, West Indies and Spanish Plantation owners; in 1660 Virginia Law decreed slaves would serve their masters for life. With the development of plantation land and its five staples of produce Rice, Cotton, Sugar, Tobacco and Coffee required strenuous work to harvest. At the age of six Araminta was taken from her parents to live with James Cook, whose wife was a weaver, to learn the skills of weaving. James Cook would order her to guard his muskrat traps, which compelled her to wade through the water.
Once she was sent when she was ill with the measles, and caught a cold from wading in the water and she grew very sick. Her mother convinced her master to take her away from the Cooks until she could recuperate. After she entered her teens she was hired out as field hand. In the fall of that same year slaves were required to work evenings, cleaning up wheat, husking corn, etc. On one afternoon one of the slaves of a farmer named Barrett, left work and went to the village store without permission. The overseer and Araminta followed him.
When the slave was found, the overseer swore he would whip the slave, and called on Araminta and others to help tie him. She refused and as the man ran away the overseer picked up a two-pound store weight from the counter and threw it at the fugitive, but it fell short and struck Araminta a stunning blow on her head. It was over two months before she recovered from a stupor or but she still seem lethargy at times years later. After this she lived for six years with John Stewart working in the house. She later was hired out to Dr. Thompson, son of her master’s guardian.
While employed the rudest labors drove oxen, carted, plowed and did work of a man. This would prepare her for deliver her people from bondage later in life. Araminta was influenced by what she had learned of the Bible from her Parents. In 1844 Araminta married John Tubman and took her mother’s first name. In 1849 after her master had died, she decided to escape from slavery. If she didn’t run away it was rumored she and her brothers were to be sold to a chain gang. Making her way to freedom in Pennsylvania without any friend and no education she relied on her only skill as a house servant.
While employed she managed to save enough money to return to the South to free her sister and her two children. A year later she began her transition to conductor of the Underground Railroad, this informal system arose as a loosely constructed network escape routes that originated in the South, intertwined throughout the North eventually ended in Canada. An escaped slave herself Tubman earned the nickname “Moses” for heroic exploits in freeing slaves with her death defining acts of courage. Harriet successfully returned 19 times freeing over 300 slaves without one being recaptured.
Because of her success the Union Army sought her help to get behind enemy lines. But because the Civil War didn’t have freedom of her people as goal she refused the Union bid for her services. After Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation, she was hired as a union spy, scout, and hospital nurse as well as a prolific speaker to her people. Harriet never received any monetary support for her work although union officers were been paid $15 dollars a month. While in the services of the union army she nearly lost her plot of land in Auburn, New York.
But with the help of friends and the sale of her manuscript she was able to save her property from the bank mortgage. In 1869 she remarried her second husband, a Union soldier. She became involved in a number of causes including Women’s Suffrage Movement. She died in Auburn, New York, 1913 (her birth date has never been verified and estimates range 1816 to 1823 for her birth year). In conclusion, it is evident that the abolition of slavery was the effort of the slave and the free, the rich, the poor, the literate and the illiterate.