Black history month:Harriet Tubman

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A Mighty GirlLike Page

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This rare photo of the famous abolitionist Harriet Tubman was taken in 1911, two years before her death at the age of 91. While Harriet Tubman is nearly a household name, many people are surprised to learn that in addition to her famous work as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, she also played a key role in the American Civil War by working with Union forces for over two years. When the war broke out, Tubman saw a Union victory as a key element to ensuring the abolition of slavery throughout America. She joined the Union forces and urged their officers to see escaped slaves not as “contraband” — seized by the Northern forces and put to work without pay — but as people who could aid their cause. 

Tubman offered her expertise to the Union cause, starting as a nurse in Port Royal, South Carolina, and then working as a scout and spy, using the skills she had developed while smuggling people out of the South to smuggle information instead. She even became the first woman to lead an armed assault in the Civil War, by commanding the Combahee River raid that freed over 700 slaves in South Carolina. After the successful raid, newspapers praised her Tubman’s “patriotism, sagacity, energy, [and] ability.” Following the war, she became a strong supporter of the fight for women’s rights. She often gave speeches on women’s right to vote and worked alongside such figures as Suffrage Movement leader Susan B. Anthony. When asked how she could take on so many dangerous missions over the years, Tubman famously replied, “I can’t die but once.”

To introduce children to Harriet Tubman’s incredible life story, we highly recommend “Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom” for ages 5 to 8 ( and “Who Was Harriet Tubman” for ages 7 to 11 (

Harriet Tubman’s Civil War contributions are also recounted in the excellent book about 16 women who made a mark during the war: “Courageous Women of the Civil War” for ages 12 and up at

For adults who would like to read more about Tubman’s life and contributions, there are two excellent biographies “Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom” ( and “Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman” (

You can also find more books for young readers and a coloring book in our “Harriet Tubman Collection” at

For hundreds of books about trailblazing women role models from throughout history, visit our “Role Model” biography section at



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