26 Facts About Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman, or ‘Moses of the People’, was a heroic lady who saved the lives of hundreds of slaves throughout her life! She was a determined, altruistic, and hero of the time. She didn’t stop to think of herself and the potential dangers she was placing herself in, the only thing important to her was to free people! Join us as we discover more about this humble human. Here are 26 facts for you. 

Fact 1: Harriet Tubman is the name we all know her by, but her birth name was actually Araminta Ross. She decided to change her name to that of her Mothers, Harriet, later in life.

Fact 2: Harriet was actually born into slavery. Slavery in the US spanned over generations, and it was a horrific time for those involved. Many slaves were treated poorly by their owners and most died in slavery. This was the life that Harriet knew from infancy, and through to much of her adult life. 

Fact 3: Harriet was born into a family of slaves, and it is for this reason that little is known about her birth date. Some speculate that she was born in 1815-1822, but as there is no hard evidence to support a specific date, giving her an actual age is impossible. 

Fact 4: Harriet Tubman is best known for rescuing slaves throughout her lifetime. There are no exact figures about how many people she rescued from slavery, but some suggest it is around 300 people. 

Fact 5: Just like we don’t know a specific number about how many slaves she actually rescued, we don’t have an exact number for how many trips she took back and forth from her safe house to Maryland, and other popular slave driven areas, to rescue people. There is some evidence to suggest she went back about 13 times to try and help people get to freedom. 

Fact 6: The Underground Railroad was used several times by Tubman and her rescuees throughout her lifetime. The Underground Railroad was a network of routes that would transport slaves from states that supported slavery, to ‘free states’, a place where people were no longer seen as slaves. These networks were long and the journeys people had to take while on them were not pleasant because ‘slave catchers’ were about, and generally the grounds were unsafe.  

Fact 7: Harriet was born in Dorchester, Maryland. This area was known for slavery. Today, this area is quite popular, and it is known for its heart-like shape on a map of the world.

Fact 8: When Harriet was an infant she was still used as a slave, and she was very poorly treated. On one occasion, in particular, she was treated particularly badly by a ‘slave owner’. While she and another slave were working, their ‘salve owner’ became very angry about something and threw a great big metal weight at Harriet, he had intended for it to hit her fellow slave. She was left unconscious and in a state after this.

Fact 9: Harriet’s Mother and Father were both slaves. 

Fact 10: Harriet suffered from many mental issues after a metal weight was thrown at her head while she was a child. She actually had some form of epilepsy, she would often blackout, and she would suffer from extreme headaches.

Harriet Tubman

Fact 11: Tubman suffered from hypersomnia throughout her life. This was likely to be a direct result of a metal weight being thrown at her as a child. Hypersomnia is when someone has excessive sleepiness or too much time is actually spent asleep. Given what we know now about sleep and how important it is to get the right amount of sleep, it’s phenomenal that Tubman achieved what she did while feeling sleepy for prolonged periods of time. Too much sleep is just as problematic as too little sleep, and it can have a direct effect on concentration, and brain functioning. 

Fact 12: Harriet was very religious. Like several others at this time she was brought up as a Methodist, but her strength intensified when she started to see God in her dreams. Some people believe that these sightings might have been a direct cause of her head injury.

Fact 13: Tubman was illiterate her whole life, this meant that she could not read and write. While today most of us will know how to read and write, not many people knew how to years and years ago, slaves, in particular, would not have known much about writing. 

Fact 14: Tubman’s parents were Harriet and Ben. Both parents were very hard-working people, her mother was a cook for Mary Brodess, and her Father belonged to Anthony Thompson a plantation owner.

Fact 15: Harriet was often told as a child that she was similar to an Ashanti person. The Ashanti are a tribe of people that lived in the Ashanti Region, what we now call Ghana. People thought she was somehow related to these people because of her characteristics and looks, but no evidence has ever been found to support this claim. 

Fact 16: ‘Minty’ was the nickname given to Harriet by her family. 

Fact 17: Tubman was from a large family, in fact, some records say her Mother and Father had 9 children. These children were Harriet, Rachel, Moses, Henry, Ben, Robert, Soph, Mariah, and Linah.

Fact 18: Harriet Tubman’s Mother had a real tough time keeping her family together. At this time a Mother’s ‘occupation’ determined what status the children would be. For example, Mother Harriet was a slave, therefore all her children were slaves too. Had Mother Harriet been a free woman then her children would’ve been free too. She lost most of her children to slavery.

Fact 19: Harriet didn’t see much of her sisters Soph, Linah, and Mariah because they were sold off to another owner by their father. 

Fact 20: Mary Brodess once hired out a young Tubman as a nursemaid, her task at this new house was to make sure that she rocked the owners baby in its crib, and to make sure it didn’t cry. Without going into too much detail, we can all guess what happened next, the baby cried and Harriet was abused by the owner. 

Fact 21: Modesty, Harriet’s Grandmother, is the only ancestor of hers that historians actually know about. Very little documentation was actually kept about slaves at this time, which is why her childhood, and in particular significant dates, are vague.

Fact 22: Harriet Tubman was a clever woman from a young age after she suffered from a few beatings by various owners, she began to wear more clothing to protect herself, and on some occasions, she fought back. Nonetheless, the scars she obtained all the way were with her until her very last day. 

Fact 23: When Harriet was much older she was made to work out in the forests, plowing, and getting logs. Little did she know that these ‘land’ skills would come in handy for when she was helping slaves escape from their owners across the lands later on in life.  

Fact 24: Mother Harriet and Father Ben, were supposed to both have manumitted on their slavery contracts by the age of 45, but Mother Harriet’s was never permitted by her owners. This meant that Harriet and her siblings could’ve been free from slavery, but instead, as their mother remained a slave they had to remain as slaves too. This event largely influenced Harriet’s decision to escape from slavery, because owners were not keeping their side of a bargain. 

Fact 25: When Harriet was old enough she married John Tubman, who was a free man. This marriage was perfectly fine at the time as free slaves were allowed to marry slaves.

Fact 26: Harriet only liked the Bible teachings of the Old Testament as she felt the New Testament condoned slavery too much for her. Religion was a guide to her for her whole life, and she never lost faith.

by Swan Auction Galleries – 19th century abolitionist Harriet Tubman

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