Black History History Personal Stories Suffrage Travel

Harriet Tubman – a Travel Story

Day two of our travels. So far we’ve visited

At the Women’s Rights Museum our fantastic Park Ranger told us that the Harriet Tubman House wasn’t far away in Auburn, NY. My youngest daughter had been learning about Tubman in school and expressed interest. In an effort to bring her education to life, we altered our plans and took the 25-minute drive to Auburn.

There are four buildings on the property, Harriet’s personal home, a home for the aged, an administration building, and a museum.

Tours were open for the home for the aged. Harriet’s personal home was closed for repairs. It was in the museum that Harriet came alive for my youngest daughter.

Our museum guide, Paul, gave us a personal presentation on Harriet’s life. He was energetic, passionate and spoke directly to my youngest. He spoke of Harriet in such ways that she would never again be just dates and places of history. She became a full-fledged person that we all would have loved to be in her presence.

He told us that when she was a child she suffered a massive head wound when she was hit in the head by a metal weight. It was an accident caused by a slave owner who was intending to hit an escaped slave that was running away. The injury gave her troubles all her life but it rarely slowed her down.

Harriet Tubman was a remarkable rebel. Born into slavery she not only escaped but she made 13 rescue missions to save family and friends. In the Civil War, she was a nurse, an armed scout, and a spy. She was the first woman to lead war-time troops. In 1865 it took three men to physically thrown her into another train car after she insisted she had a right to sit where ever she wanted. She was a speaker for abolition, women’s rights, temperance, and civil rights.

Leaving the museum I thought about why Harriet Tubman was able to do so much in a time when women, especially women of color, were sidelined. I think it’s because she was able to be invisible and visible when the situation needed it. She was always underestimated if she was even seen at all, which made it possible for her to do amazing things for others. Those that saw her power, helped her, worked with her and encouraged her. Such a remarkable and fiery woman that could have been forgotten to history but her heroic actions speak to the good that can be in all of us and that’s why she’s still taught in school.

It made me think of my youngest. She’s the quietest of us, underestimated, and unintentionally left out of conversations but I feel she has the biggest heart of all of us and quite possibly the smartest. I saw a lot of Harriet in my youngest and the pride swelled.

We took the five-minute drive to Fort Hill Cemetery to pay our respects.


History of Harriet Tubman

harriet-tubman_s640x780Born a slave in Maryland between 1820-1825 her name was Araminta “Minty” Ross. Harriet is actually her mother’s name. She went by Harriet around the time of her marriage to John Tubman. Harriet had nine brothers and sisters. Three of her sisters were sold off and separated from the family. When slave traders came for her brother Moses, it is said that Harriet’s mother hid Moses and threatened to hurt anyone who entered her home trying to take him. It’s possible this is where Harriet saw that resistance and “good trouble” can work.

Around 1844 she married John Tubman, who from our guide, seemed to accept his place in life and didn’t want Harriet to cause any trouble or try to escape. She did. Harriet and two of her brothers fled in 1849 after the death of their slave owner. Not wanting to wait around to see what the will or widow would do they fled, but they had second thoughts and returned. Harriet soon escaped again, this time without her brothers and she made it to Pennsylvania.

For over a decade Harriet went back to Maryland rescuing about 70 slaves including her three of her brothers and her parents. She even tried to rescue her husband but he had married another woman. Even when she offered to take them both back home with her, John was comfortable where he was.

In 1859 abolitionist Republican senator William Seward sold Harriet the land which her two houses and the museum is on. This gave her and her family a safe place to live.

Civil War

During the war, she assisted fugitive slaves in Port Royal, South Carolina. She was a nurse and led a team of scouts to map the area for the Union.

In 1863 Combahee River Raid Harriet became the first woman to lead an armed assault. She guided three steamboats to avoid Confederate mines, set fire to plantations, seize food and supplies, and rescued more than 750 slaves. Her name was in the newspapers and her heroics inspired newly-liberated men to join the Union Army.

She continued to help the Union Army for two years as a scout and as a nurse.

On Women’s Rights

From the 1860s to the 1900s Harriet Tubman spoke at suffrage meetings in New York and Boston. When she and others confronted racism in the National American Women Suffrage Association, new organizations were created. In 1896 the National Association of Colored Women of Washington D.C. and the National Federation of African-American Women in Boston.

Women who were alongside Harriet Tubman in the fight for civil rights and women’s rights were; Ida B. Wells a journalist, Susan B. Anthony an activist, Mary Talbert an activist, and Emily Howland a teacher at freedmen schools.

Later Life

She married Nelson Davis in 1869. He would pass away in 1888.

She struggled for money and worked various jobs. Two books written about her helped. Sarah Hopkins Bradford wrote the books as a way to help Harriet with finances.

In 1903 she donated land to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church with the instructions to make a home for the “aged and indigent colored people”. The home opened in 1908.

In 1913 Harriet died of pneumonia. She was buried with semi-military honors at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn.



Start the day in Rochester, NY

Susan B. Anthony House, 17 Madison St, Rochester, NY 14608
Allow 1 hour to visit. Check Website for hours and admissions fees.

12-minute drive to
Mount Hope Cemetery (Susan B. Anthony and Fredrick Douglass graves) 1133 Mt Hope Ave, Rochester, NY 14620
Allow as much time as you need to pay your respects. No admission fees but there are open gate hours listed on Google.

1-hour drive to Seneca Falls, NY
Women’s Rights National Historic Park, 136 Fall St, Seneca Falls, NY 13148
Allow 2 hours to view the museum and the surrounding historical sites. Admission is free. Hours vary by season. Website

3 Minute Drive (20-minute walk) to
Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s House, 32 Washington Street, Seneca Falls, NY
Reopens in the Spring. Free Admission. Website

25-minute drive to Auburn, NY
Harriet Tubman House & Museum, 180 S Street Rd, Auburn, NY 13021
Allow 30 minutes for the museum, tours have starting times. Museum was free (we left a donation) not sure on the tour as we had missed the last one. Website

5-minute drive to
Fort Hill Cemetery (Harriet Tubman’s grave) 19 Fort St, Auburn, NY 13021
Allow as much time as you need to pay your respects. No admission fees but there are open gate hours listed on Google. Website

Approximate itinerary time: 7 hours including travel.

Safe Travels!

Author dr leah leach

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