Harriet Tubman Biography
Around the age of 12, Harriet Tubman moved from a household slave to outdoor work. She worked a variety of jobs from plowing the fields to chopping wood in the forest. It was backbreaking work, but Harriet preferred it to being under the watchful eye of the slave owners in the house.
Hit in the Head
Just like before, Harriet was often hired out to work for other people. While working as a field hand on the harvest of the Barrett farm, Harriet suffered a terrible head injury. It happened on a day when Harriet was sent to the local grocery store on an errand. Inside the store she met a runaway slave. Soon the runaway's overseer arrived at the store. He demanded that Harriet help to subdue the runaway, but Harriet refused. When the runaway tried to escape through the door, the overseer threw a two pound weight at him. The throw missed the runaway and hit Harriet in the head. Here is the description of the wound described by Harriet herself:
"The weight broke my skull and cut a piece of that shawl clean off and drove it into my head. They carried me to the house all bleeding and fainting. I had no bed, no place to lie down on at all, and they laid me on the seat of the loom, and I stayed there all day and the next".
Harriet didn't receive any medical attention. She was sent out to the farms to work a few days later with blood rolling down her face and into her eyes. When she proved unable to work, she was sent back to her master Brodess with the note that she was "not worth a sixpence." Brodess didn't want her either and tried unsuccessfully to sell her.
Recovery and Lasting Issues
Although Harriet eventually recovered enough to go back into the fields and work, she was never the same. She suffered the rest of her life with a brain injury. She would often just fall asleep right in the middle of doing something. She could be having a conversation with someone one minute and be sound asleep the next. She also had headaches and vivid visions. She would see bright lights and hear sounds, like music, that weren't really there.
Getting Back to Work
Despite her condition, Harriet returned to work once she had mostly recovered. This time she worked in the lumber business along with her father and brothers for Mr. Stewart. While Harriet was only five feet tall, she prided herself on her strength and hard work. She could chop wood and carry timber as well as any man in the work crew. Harriet's hard work enabled her to earn extra money. She had to give a certain amount to her owner each month, but any extra, Harriet was allowed to keep.
In 1844, Harriet married John Tubman. John Tubman was a free black man, but his free status did little to help Harriet. Her children would still be considered slaves and she could be sold at any moment. Harriet tried to get John to run to the North with her so she could be free, but he refused. This likely caused some strain in their relationship.
Harriet Tubman Biography Contents
- Overview and Interesting Facts
- Born into Slavery
- Early Life as a Slave
- Dreaming About Freedom
- The Escape!
- The Underground Railroad
- Freedom and the First Rescue
- The Conductor
- The Legend Grows
- Harper's Ferry and the Civil War Begins
- Life as a Spy
- Life After the War
- Later Life and Death