Harriet Tubman, Abolitionist and Humanitarian (1822 - 1913)

A woodcut image of Harriet Tubman holding a rifle during the Civil War.

A woodcut image of Harriet Tubman holding a rifle during the Civil War.

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."

On 20 April 2016, it was announced that Harriet Tubman will be the new face on the US $20 bill – the first woman to appear on an American banknote in over a century. 

Araminta "Minty" Ross was born in the early 1820s to slave parents in Maryland. She was beaten and whipped during her childhood and suffered permanent injuries, as well as witnessing the sale of three of her sisters. She married a free black man named John Tubman in 1849 and around this time also changed her first name to Harriet, after her mother.

With the threat of her own sale looming, Harriet escaped from slavery in 1849 using a secret network of people and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad, heading 145km north to Pennsylvania. There she was safe, but returned to Maryland over a dozen times to rescue 70 other slaves, including her parents and some of her siblings, during dangerous night-time missions. (She also returned for her husband, but found he had taken another wife.) She was looked up to as a hero and earned the nickname "Moses" after the Biblical prophet who led Jewish slaves to freedom.

During the Civil War Harriet joined the US Army, working firstly as a nurse and then as a spy. She led several raids, including one which liberated 700 slaves. After the war ended she moved to New York, was active in the women's suffrage movement, and eventually retired to a rest home for African-Americans which she had helped set up and was named in her honour. Since her death in 1913, she has been celebrated as a symbol of courage and freedom.

To learn more about Harriet Tubman, read Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground RailroadHarriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom and Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero.

Source: Wikipedia.