During the years leading up to the Civil War in the United States, many enslaved people escaped from captivity, heading north to free states and Canada.

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They didn't do it alone. Guides and helpers working in the Underground Railroad assisted them along the way.

One of those guides was Harriet Tubman. After escaping from slavery herself, she helped hundreds of enslaved people flee to the North.

Original photograph of Harriet Tubman

Her story can teach us lessons about bravery, personal strength, and care for others.

1. Don't Let Fear Stop You

Harriet was born into slavery in the early 1800's. During that time, enslaved people who tried to escape faced terrible consequences, such as being beaten, killed, or sold away from their loved ones.

The conditions were so inhumane that Harriet decided to escape anyway.

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She was pursued by bounty hunters but managed to travel over 100 miles from Maryland to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Black people were free.

Silhouette of a person in a cape holding a lantern.

Once there, she quickly decided to risk her life once again and help others escape. She returned to Maryland 13 times and led others to safety, despite there being a warrant out for her arrest and death.

Although she was afraid, Harriet's passion and love for others was greater than her fear.

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Don't let fear get in the way of:

  • your dreams

  • your goals

  • what you know is right

2. You are Stronger Than You Think

Harriet was by all accounts an ordinary person. Women in the 1800's, even those who were free, weren't necessarily valued by society. As a formerly enslaved Black woman, she seemingly had little power. She was certainly underrated.

A young, modern woman. She looks to the side, then looks to the camera and confidently describes herself as strong.

The truth is,she was strong and mighty.She:

  • personally led 70 people from slavery to the North

  • helped countless others escape through her Underground Railroad work

  • didn't give up on her mission, even when others told her it was too dangerous

  • became a leader in the abolitionist movement, speaking at meetings and rallies

The image below is a clipping from an 1860 newspaper.

A newspaper clipping describing one of her speeches at which she was introduced as Harriet Tribbman.

Select the play button below to listen to the article text:

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If others doubt you — or if you doubt yourself — tap into your strengths and stay the course.

3. Find Purpose in Helping Others

Harriet spent her free life helping others. In addition to her work on the Underground Railroad, she:

  • worked as a spy and a nurse during the Civil War

  • was active in the emancipation movement

  • adopted a child

  • worked for women's suffrage (the right to vote)

  • helped to establish a home for the aged

1887 photograph of Harriet Tubman with family and friends.

This 1887 photograph shows (from left) Harriet Tubman, her adopted daughter Gertie, husband Nelson Davis, and some friends and family.

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Despite your circumstances or position in life, there is something you can do to help others. Think beyond yourself and you may find your purpose.


Which of these words describe Harriet Tubman? Select all that apply:

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Photograph of Harriet Tubman, 1895

Although she lived more than 150 years ago, Harriet Tubman is still remembered and admired today for her bravery, selflessness, and commitment to helping others. She is a testament to the fact that one person can make a huge difference.


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