September 17 – Harriet Tubman Escapes!

Posted on September 17, 2013

Today we can celebrate a woman breaking laws, stealing, and running away from her crimes.

Well—running away WAS her crime!

In the early United States, it was perfectly legal to own other people. You could buy and sell other people, and you could pretty much do what you wanted to do with “your own” people.

What was against the law was for those people to run away. Not only was it illegal for a slave to run away, it was illegal for anyone to help a slave run away. And, in a sense, the runaway was depriving his or her “master” of property that had been paid for.

Of course slavery was horribly wrong, and so in this case, breaking the laws was a good thing, and following the laws was an immoral thing. I wonder if you think that any laws we have today are bad laws that should be broken?

At any rate, on this date in 1849, a woman named Harriet Tubman successfully escaped slavery. She made it to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where slavery was illegal and she was free.

Why do you think that Tubman's
nickname was "Moses"?
But Tubman didn't sit around up north just enjoying her freedom. Instead, she continued her “crime spree” by returning to her home state of Maryland to break out her family. One group at a time, returning over and over again into dangerous territory, Tubman helped dozens of enslaved people find their way to freedom.

Soon, another bad law was created: the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 required law officials in free states to help recapture escaped slaves. So Pennsylvania and other free states were no longer safe. Tubman didn't buckle—she just started traveling further with the groups she led—all the way north to Canada.

When the Civil War began, Tubman worked for the Union Army. She served as a cook, a nurse, an armed scout, and even a spy! She was the first woman to lead an armed expedition during the war—and this raid was very successful, freeing more than 700 slaves!

To learn more about the Underground Railroad, which was a system of safe houses for escaping slaves, check out the Scholastic website.

To learn more about Tubman, check out this earlier post

Also on this date:

Plan Ahead!

And here are my Pinterest pages on October holidaysOctober birthdays, and historical anniversaries in October.

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