Harriett Taubman and Frederick Douglass are two of America’s most renowned historical figures. African American heroes both hailing from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, they were integral in the Underground Railway movement that sought to free slaves from bondage. A special tour highlights these important figures: Harriett Tubman and Frederick Douglas Tours. The tours pay homage to their extraordinary accomplishments and pivotal role in history. Historical sites associated with each figure will be visited, including flight routes used on the Underground Railroad and landmarks relevant to each person’s life story. Visitors will get an opportunity to learn more about Harriet Tubman’s intricate network of escape routes and how she utilized them to transport over 300 slaves toward freedom, as well as gain a greater understanding of Frederick Douglass’ unparalleled activism.
Harriett Taubman History
Around 1820, Harriet Tubman was born on a Maryland estate in Dorchester County. She was given the names Araminta Ross and “Minty” by her parents, Benjamin Ross and Harriet (“Rit”) Green.
Rit was a cook in the “great house” of the property, while Benjamin was a lumberjack. In honour of her mother, Araminta later changed her first name to Harriet.
Despite Rit’s best efforts to keep the family together, the realities of slavery eventually drove many of Harriet’s eight brothers and sisters away. When Harriet was five years old, she was hired as a nursemaid and whipped her when the baby cried, which left her with physical and emotional scars that would never go away.
When Harriet was 12 years old, she witnessed an overseer prepare to hurl a large weight at a fugitive, which ignited her passion for justice. When Harriet moved to put herself between the overseer and the enslaved person, the weight fell on her head.
The incident was later described by her as “the weight fractured my head… ” They dragged me, bleeding and dizzy, to the house. I had nowhere to lay down, let alone a bed, so they put me on the loom’s seat, where I spent the entire day and the following day.
Because of her good deed, Harriet suffered from narcolepsy and headaches for the rest of her life, which made her prone to drowsiness. Additionally, she began experiencing what she frequently said were visios from God which potential slave buyers found unsettling and unattractive.
When Harriet’s father was freed in 1840, she also discovered that Rit and her children, including Harriet, had been freed by Rit’s owner’s last will. Rit, Harriet, and the rest of her children were kept in servitude by Rit’s new owner because he refused to accept the will.
After getting married to a free Black man named John Tubman in the early 1840s, Harriet changed her last name from Ross to Tubman. Since the marriage was unhappy, Harriet decided to make an escape plan after learning that her brothers Ben and Henry were going to be sold.
On September 17, 1849, Harriet, Ben, and Henry escaped from their Maryland plantation. However, the brothers had a change of heart and went back. With the help of the Underground Railroad, Harriet persisted and travelled 90 miles north to Pennsylvania and freedom.
While working as a housekeeper in Philadelphia, Tubman realised that she wanted freedom for her friends and family as well as for herself, and returned to the south to assist her niece and children on the Underground railway to Philly.
On her return, she realized her husband John and remarried and chose to stay in Maryland with his new wife.
When the American Civil War began in 1861, Harriet developed fresh strategies to combat slavery. She served as a nurse, chef, and laundress at Fort Monroe and was hired to help runaway slaves. Harriet assisted in the treatment of ill soldiers and runaway slaves using her expertise of herbal remedies.
Harriet took charge of the Union Army’s spy and scout network in 1863. She helped free enslaved individuals to serve in Black Union regiments by providing vital knowledge to Union commanders regarding Confederate Army troop movements and supply lines.
Although Ms Taubman was essential to the war effort she wasn’t recognized for her military accomplishments until decades later.
The $20 currency will now include a picture of Harriet instead of former president and slaveholder Andrew Jackson, according to a 2016 announcement by the US Treasury. Later, President Trump’s former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicated that the new measure would be postponed until at least 2026. The administration of President Biden declared in January 2021 that it will expedite the design and minting of the currency commemorating Tubman’s legacy.
Fredrick Douglass History
Formerly a slave, Frederick Douglass went on to become a well-known activist, novelist, and public speaker. He rose to prominence in the abolitionist movement, which worked to abolish slavery both before and during the American Civil War. He persisted in advocating for equality and human rights after that battle and the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862 until his death in 1895. Sources
In Talbot County, Maryland, somewhere around 1818, Frederick Douglass was born into slavery. Douglass himself never knew with certainty when he was born.
His father was white and of European ancestry, and his mother was a Black woman who had been held as a slave. His mother gave him the name Frederick Bailey at birth, and he didn’t change it to Douglass until he managed to flee. At birth, he was given the full name Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey.
Douglass lived briefly with his maternal grandmother Betty Bailey after being taken from his mother as an infant. But when he was six years old, he was sent to live and work on the Wye House plantation in Maryland, far from her.
Douglass was then “given” to Lucretia Auld, whose husband Thomas hired him to work in Baltimore with his brother Hugh. Douglass attributes learning the letters to Hugh’s wife Sophia. Douglass then taught himself to read and write and eventually became essential to teaching other slaves to read using the Bible.
Auld then took Douglass back to Edward Covey, a slave owner who was notorious for his violent treatment of the enslaved persons in his care, At sixteen Douglass’s efforts to teach slaves to read came to Covey’s attention and he was often punished.
Douglass finally escaped Covey’s plantation in 1838, first boarding a train to Havre de Grace, Maryland, following several unsuccessful attempts to flee. From there, he passed through Delaware, another slave state, on his way to New York and David Ruggles’ safe home, who was a known abolitionist.
Douglass eventually sent for Anna Murray, a free Black woman from Baltimore whom he had met when held captive by the Aulds, once he had arrived in New York. In September 1838, and Murray joined him, the two were wed. Together, they would have five kids.
The newlyweds relocated to New Bedford, Massachusetts after their marriage, where they met the Johnsons, a married couple who were “born free persons of colour”. The Johnsons were the motivation behind the couple’s decision to adopt the surname Douglass in honour of the protagonist of Sir Walter Scott’s poem “The Lady of the Lake.”
Douglass started going to the abolitionist movement meetings in New Bedford. He was introduced to the works of writer and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison during these gatherings.
Douglass finally met Garrison personally while he was speaking at an abolitionist gathering when he recounted his enslavement and escape. After the meeting, Garrison encouraged him to take up the reins of the leadership of the movement.
By 1843, Douglass had joined the “Hundred Conventions” initiative of the American Anti-Slavery Society, a six-month journey across the country. On numerous occasions during the trip, abolitionist opponents violently attacked Douglass. In one such attack, Douglass’s hand was fractured, and he never fully regained full hand function.
In 1858, John Brown, a radical abolitionist, was staying with Douglass in Rochester, New York while planning a raid on the United States military arsenal at Harpers Ferry. This was his attempt to establish a base for enslaved people in the mountains of Maryland and Virginia. Mr Brown was caught and hung for his efforts. His famous last words are forever immortalized ” I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood”
Shortly after, Douglass would pen his first and most famous autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.