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Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park is a 480-acre National Park Service unit in the U.S. state of Maryland. It commemorates the life of former slave Harriet Tubman, who became an activist in the Underground Railroad prior to the American Civil War. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument was created by President Barack Obama under the Antiquities Act on March 25, 2013. The portion of the monument administered by the National Park Service was later designated a National Historical Park in 2014, and the remainder is managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

Description
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park includes sites near Cambridge, Maryland, Windy Hill, and Preston, in Dorchester County, Talbot, and Caroline counties, that were significant in Tubman's life. The Park currently includes 480 acres of land known as the Jacob Jackson Homesite. The NHP was established by the Carl Levin and Howard P. "Buck" McKeon National Defense Authorization Act FY2015 (Public Law 113-291, December 19, 2014). The legislation authorized the acquisition of an additional 4,207.54 acres in Dorchester, Caroline, and Talbot counties. The Jackson site was donated to the federal government by The Conservation Fund for the establishment of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument which later became known as the National Historical Park in accordance with PL 113-291. PL 113-291 also established the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn, New York.

History

Harriet Tubman (born Araminta Ross, c. March 1822 – March 10, 1913) was an American abolitionist and political activist. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and subsequently made some 13 missions to rescue approximately 70 enslaved people, including family and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. During the American Civil War, she served as an armed scout and spy for the Union Army. In her later years, Tubman was an activist in the struggle for women's suffrage.

Born a slave in Dorchester County, Maryland, Tubman was beaten and whipped by her various masters as a child. Early in life, she suffered a traumatic head wound when an irate slave owner threw a heavy metal weight intending to hit another slave, but hitting her instead. The injury caused dizziness, pain, and spells of hypersomnia, which occurred throughout her life. After her injury, Tubman began experiencing strange visions and vivid dreams, which she ascribed to premonitions from God. These experiences, combined with her Methodist upbringing, led her to become devoutly religious.

In 1849, Tubman escaped to Philadelphia, only to return to Maryland to rescue her family soon after. Slowly, one group at a time, she brought relatives with her out of the state, and eventually guided dozens of other slaves to freedom. Traveling by night and in extreme secrecy, Tubman (or "Moses", as she was called) "never lost a passenger". After the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was passed, she helped guide fugitives farther north into British North America (Canada), and helped newly freed slaves find work. Tubman met John Brown in 1858, and helped him plan and recruit supporters for his 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry.

When the Civil War began, Tubman worked for the Union Army, first as a cook and nurse, and then as an armed scout and spy. The first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, she guided the raid at Combahee Ferry, which liberated more than 700 slaves. After the war, she retired to the family home on property she had purchased in 1859 in Auburn, New York, where she cared for her aging parents. She was active in the women's suffrage movement until illness overtook her, and she had to be admitted to a home for elderly African Americans that she had helped to establish years earlier. After her death in 1913, she became an icon of courage and freedom.


Birth and family
Tubman was born Araminta "Minty" Ross to enslaved parents, Harriet ("Rit") Green and Ben Ross. Rit was owned by Mary Pattison Brodess (and later her son Edward). Ben was held by Anthony Thompson, who became Mary Brodess's second husband, and who ran a large plantation near the Blackwater River in the Madison area of Dorchester County, Maryland. As with many slaves in the United States, neither the exact year nor place of Tubman's birth is known, and historians differ as to the best estimate. Kate Larson records the year as 1822, based on a midwife payment and several other historical documents, including her runaway advertisement, while Jean Humez says "the best current evidence suggests that Tubman was born in 1820, but it might have been a year or two later". Catherine Clinton notes that Tubman reported the year of her birth as 1825, while her death certificate lists 1815 and her gravestone lists 1820.


Modesty, Tubman's maternal grandmother, arrived in the United States on a slave ship from Africa; no information is available about her other ancestors. As a child, Tubman was told that she seemed like an Ashanti person because of her character traits, though no evidence exists to confirm or deny this lineage. Her mother, Rit (who may have had a white father), was a cook for the Brodess family. Her father, Ben, was a skilled woodsman who managed the timber work on Thompson's plantation. They married around 1808 and, according to court records, had nine children together: Linah, Mariah Ritty, Soph, Robert, Minty (Harriet), Ben, Rachel, Henry, and Moses.

Rit struggled to keep her family together as slavery threatened to tear it apart. Edward Brodess sold three of her daughters (Linah, Mariah Ritty, and Soph), separating them from the family forever. When a trader from Georgia approached Brodess about buying Rit's youngest son, Moses, she hid him for a month, aided by other slaves and free blacks in the community. At one point she confronted her owner about the sale. Finally, Brodess and "the Georgia man" came toward the slave quarters to seize the child, where Rit told them, "You are after my son; but the first man that comes into my house, I will split his head open." Brodess backed away and abandoned the sale. Tubman's biographers agree that stories told about this event within the family influenced her belief in the possibilities of resistance.

Childhood
Tubman's mother was assigned to "the big house" and had scarce time for her family; consequently, as a child, Tubman took care of a younger brother and baby, as was typical in large families. When she was five or six years old, Brodess hired her out as a nursemaid to a woman named "Miss Susan". Tubman was ordered to care for the baby and rock its cradle as it slept; when it woke up and cried, she was whipped. She later recounted a particular day when she was lashed five times before breakfast. She carried the scars for the rest of her life. She found ways to resist, such as running away for five days. wearing layers of clothing as protection against beatings, and fighting back.

As a child, Tubman also worked at the home of a planter named James Cook. She had to check the muskrat traps in nearby marshes, even after contracting measles. She became so ill that Cook sent her back to Brodess, where her mother nursed her back to health. Brodess then hired her out again. She spoke later of her acute childhood homesickness, comparing herself to "the boy on the Swanee River", an allusion to Stephen Foster's song "Old Folks at Home". As she grew older and stronger, she was assigned to field and forest work, driving oxen, plowing, and hauling logs.

As an adolescent, Tubman suffered a severe head injury when an overseer threw a two-pound metal weight at another slave who was attempting to flee. The weight struck Tubman instead, which she said: "broke my skull". Bleeding and unconscious, she was returned to her owner's house and laid on the seat of a loom, where she remained without medical care for two days. After this incident, Tubman frequently experienced extremely painful headaches. She also began having seizures and would seemingly fall unconscious, although she claimed to be aware of her surroundings while appearing to be asleep. This condition remained with her for the rest of her life; Larson suggests she may have suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy as a result of the injury.

After her injury, Tubman began experiencing visions and vivid dreams, which she interpreted as revelations from God. These spiritual experiences had a profound effect on Tubman's personality and she acquired a passionate faith in God. Although Tubman was illiterate, she was told Bible stories by her mother and likely attended a Methodist church with her family. She rejected the teachings of the New Testament that urged slaves to be obedient and found guidance in the Old Testament tales of deliverance. This religious perspective informed her actions throughout her life.

Family and marriage
Anthony Thompson promised to release from slavery Tubman's father at the age of 45. After Thompson died, his son followed through with that promise in 1840. Tubman's father continued working as a timber estimator and foreman for the Thompson family. Several years later, Tubman contacted a white attorney and paid him five dollars to investigate her mother's legal status. The lawyer discovered that a former owner had issued instructions that Tubman's mother, Rit, like her husband, would be released from slavery at the age of 45. The record showed that a similar provision would apply to Rit's children and that any children born after she reached 45 years of age were legally free, but the Pattison and Brodess families ignored this stipulation when they inherited the slaves. Challenging it legally was an impossible task for Tubman.

Around 1844, she married a free black man named John Tubman. Although little is known about him or their time together, the union was complicated because of her slave status. The mother's status dictated that of children, and any children born to Harriet and John would be enslaved. Such blended marriages – free people of color marrying enslaved people – were not uncommon on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, whereby this time, half the black population was free. Most African-American families had both free and enslaved members. Larson suggests that they might have planned to buy Tubman's freedom.

Tubman changed her name from Araminta to Harriet soon after her marriage, though the exact timing is unclear. Larson suggests this happened right after the wedding, and Clinton suggests that it coincided with Tubman's plans to escape from slavery. She adopted her mother's name, possibly as part of religious conversion, or to honor another relative.

Escape from slavery
In 1849, Tubman became ill again, which diminished her value as a slave. Edward Brodess tried to sell her, but could not find a buyer. Angry at him for trying to sell her and for continuing to enslave her relatives, Tubman began to pray for her owner, asking God to make him change his ways. She said later: "I prayed all night long for my master till the first of March; and all the time he was bringing people to look at me, and trying to sell me." When it appeared as though a sale was being concluded, "I changed my prayer", she said. "First of March, I began to pray, 'Oh Lord, if you ain't never going to change that man's heart, kill him, Lord, and take him out of the way.'" A week later, Brodess died, and Tubman expressed regret for her earlier sentiments.

As in many estate settlements, Brodess's death increased the likelihood that Tubman would be sold and her family broken apart. His widow, Eliza, began working to sell the family's slaves. Tubman refused to wait for the Brodess family to decide her fate, despite her husband's efforts to dissuade her. "T]here was one of two things I had a right to", she explained later, "liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other".

Notice in the Cambridge Democrat newspaper offering a $100 reward (equivalent to $3,100 in 2019) for the capture of each of the escaped slaves "Minty" (Harriet Tubman) and her brothers Henry and Ben.
Tubman and her brothers, Ben and Henry, escaped from slavery on September 17, 1849. Tubman had been hired out to Anthony Thompson (the son of her father's former owner), who owned a large plantation in an area called Poplar Neck in neighboring Caroline County; it is likely her brothers labored for Thompson as well. Because the slaves were hired out to another household, Eliza Brodess probably did not recognize their absence as an escape attempt for some time. Two weeks later, she posted a runaway notice in the Cambridge Democrat, offering a reward of up to $100 for each slave returned. Once they had left, Tubman's brothers had second thoughts. Ben may have just become a father. The two men went back, forcing Tubman to return with them.

Soon afterward, Tubman escaped again, this time without her brothers. She tried to send word of her plans beforehand to her mother. She sang a coded song to Mary, a trusted fellow slave, that was a farewell. "I'll meet you in the morning", she intoned, "I'm bound for the promised land." While her exact route is unknown, Tubman made use of the network known as the Underground Railroad. This informal but well-organized system was composed of free and enslaved blacks, white abolitionists, and other activists. Most prominent among the latter in Maryland at the time were members of the Religious Society of Friends, often called Quakers. The Preston area near Poplar Neck contained a substantial Quaker community and was probably an important first stop during Tubman's escape. From there, she probably took a common route for fleeing slaves – northeast along the Choptank River, through Delaware and then north into Pennsylvania. A journey of nearly 90 miles (145 km) by foot would have taken between five days and three weeks. Tubman had to travel by night, guided by the North Star, and trying to avoid slave catchers eager to collect rewards for fugitive slaves. The "conductors" in the Underground Railroad used deceptions for protection. At an early stop, the lady of the house instructed Tubman to sweep the yard so as to seem to be working for the family. When night fell, the family hid her in a cart and took her to the next friendly house. Given her familiarity with the woods and marshes of the region, Tubman likely hid in these locales during the day. Particulars of her first journey remain shrouded in secrecy; because other fugitive slaves used the routes, Tubman did not discuss them until later in life. She crossed into Pennsylvania with a feeling of relief and awe, and recalled the experience years later:

"When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven."

Routes and methods
Tubman's dangerous work required tremendous ingenuity; she usually worked during winter months, to minimize the likelihood that the group would be seen. One admirer of Tubman said: "She always came in the winter, when the nights are long and dark, and people who have homes stay in them." Once she had made contact with escaping slaves, they left town on Saturday evenings, since newspapers would not print runaway notices until Monday morning.

Her journeys into the land of slavery put her at tremendous risk, and she used a variety of subterfuges to avoid detection. Tubman once disguised herself with a bonnet and carried two live chickens to give the appearance of running errands. Suddenly finding herself walking toward a former owner in Dorchester County, she yanked the strings holding the birds' legs, and their agitation allowed her to avoid eye contact. Later she recognized a fellow train passenger as another former master; she snatched a nearby newspaper and pretended to read. Since Tubman was known to be illiterate, the man ignored her.

While being interviewed by author Wilbur Siebert in 1897, Tubman named some of the people who helped her and places that she stayed along the Underground Railroad. She stayed with Sam Green, a free black minister living in East New Market, Maryland; she also hid near her parents' home at Poplar Neck. She would travel from there northeast to Sandtown and Willow Grove, Delaware, and to the Camden area where free black agents, William and Nat Brinkley and Abraham Gibbs, guided her north past Dover, Smyrna, and Blackbird, where other agents would take her across the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal to New Castle and Wilmington. In Wilmington, Quaker Thomas Garrett would secure transportation to William Still's office or the homes of other Underground Railroad operators in the greater Philadelphia area. Still is credited with aiding hundreds of freedom seekers to escape to safer places farther north in New York, New England, and present-day Southern Ontario.

Tubman's religious faith was another important resource as she ventured repeatedly into Maryland. The visions from her childhood head injury continued, and she saw them as divine premonitions. She spoke of "consulting with God", and trusted that He would keep her safe. Thomas Garrett once said of her, "I never met with any person of any color who had more confidence in the voice of God, as spoken directly to her soul." Her faith in the divine also provided immediate assistance. She used spirituals as coded messages, warning fellow travelers of danger or to signal a clear path. She sang versions of "Go Down Moses" and changed the lyrics to indicate that it was either safe or too dangerous to proceed. As she led fugitives across the border, she would call out, "Glory to God and Jesus, too. One more soul is safe!"

Tubman also carried a revolver and was not afraid to use it. The gun afforded some protection from the ever-present slave catchers and their dogs; however, she also purportedly threatened to shoot any escaped slave who tried to turn back on the journey since that would threaten the safety of the remaining group. Tubman told the tale of one man who insisted he was going to go back to the plantation when morale got low among a group of fugitive slaves. She pointed the gun at his head and said, "You go on or die." Several days later, he was with the group as they entered Canada.

Slaveholders in the region, meanwhile, never knew that "Minty", the petite, five-foot-tall (150 cm) disabled slave who had run away years before and never come back, was behind so many slave escapes in their community. By the late 1850s, they began to suspect a northern white abolitionist was secretly enticing their slaves away. While a popular legend persists about a reward of $40,000 for Tubman's capture, this is a manufactured figure. In 1868, in an effort to drum up support for Tubman's claim for a Civil War military pension, a former abolitionist named Salley Holley wrote an article claiming $40,000 "was not too great a reward for Maryland slaveholders to offer for her". Such a high reward would have garnered national attention, especially at a time when a small farm could be purchased for a mere $400 (equivalent to $11,400 in 2019). No such reward has been found in period newspapers. (The federal government offered $25,000 for the capture of each of John Wilkes Booth's co-conspirators in President Lincoln's assassination.) A reward offering of $12,000 has also been claimed, though no documentation exists for that figure either. Catherine Clinton suggests that the $40,000 figure may have been a combined total of the various bounties offered around the region.

Despite the best efforts of the slaveholders, Tubman was never captured, and neither were the fugitives she guided. Years later, she told an audience: "I was conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can't say – I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger."

American Civil War
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Tubman saw a Union victory as a key step toward the abolition of slavery. General Benjamin Butler, for instance, aided escaped slaves flooding into Fort Monroe in Virginia. Butler had declared these fugitives to be "contraband" – property seized by northern forces – and put them to work, initially without pay, in the fort. Tubman hoped to offer her own expertise and skills to the Union cause, too, and soon she joined a group of Boston and Philadelphia abolitionists heading to the Hilton Head district in South Carolina. She became a fixture in the camps, particularly in Port Royal, South Carolina, assisting fugitives.

Tubman met with General David Hunter, a strong supporter of abolition. He declared all of the "contrabands" in the Port Royal district free and began gathering former slaves for a regiment of black soldiers. U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, however, was not prepared to enforce emancipation on the southern states and reprimanded Hunter for his actions. Tubman condemned Lincoln's response and his general unwillingness to consider ending slavery in the U.S., for both moral and practical reasons. "God won't let master Lincoln beat the South till he does the right thing", she said.

"Master Lincoln, he's a great man, and I am a poor negro; but the negro can tell master Lincoln how to save the money and the young men. He can do it by setting the negro free. Suppose that was an awful big snake down there, on the floor. He bite you. Folks all scared because you die. You send for a doctor to cut the bite; but the snake, he rolled up there, and while the doctor doing it, he bite you again. The doctor dug out that bite; but while the doctor doing it, the snake, he spring up and bite you again; so he keep doing it, till you kill him. That's what master Lincoln ought to know."

Tubman served as a nurse in Port Royal, preparing remedies from local plants and aiding soldiers suffering from dysentery. She rendered assistance to men with smallpox; that she did not contract the disease herself started more rumors that she was blessed by God. At first, she received government rations for her work, but newly freed blacks thought she was getting special treatment. To ease the tension, she gave up her right to these supplies and made money selling pies and root beer, which she made in the evenings.

Later life
Despite her years of service, Tubman never received a regular salary and was for years denied compensation. Her unofficial status and the unequal payments offered to black soldiers caused great difficulty in documenting her service, and the U.S. government was slow in recognizing its debt to her. Her constant humanitarian work for her family and former slaves, meanwhile, kept her in a state of constant poverty, and her difficulties in obtaining a government pension were especially taxing for her.

Tubman spent her remaining years in Auburn, tending to her family and other people in need. She worked various jobs to support her elderly parents and took in boarders to help pay the bills. One of the people Tubman took in was a 5-foot-11-inch-tall (180 cm) farmer named Nelson Charles Davis. Born in North Carolina, he had served as a private in the 8th United States Colored Infantry Regiment from September 1863 to November 1865. He began working in Auburn as a bricklayer, and they soon fell in love. Though he was 22 years younger than she was, on March 18, 1869, they were married at the Central Presbyterian Church. They adopted a baby girl named Gertie in 1874, and lived together as a family; Nelson died on October 14, 1888, of tuberculosis.

Tubman's friends and supporters from the days of abolition, meanwhile, raised funds to support her. One admirer, Sarah Hopkins Bradford, wrote an authorized biography entitled Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman. The 132-page volume was published in 1869 and brought Tubman some $1,200 in income. Criticized by modern biographers for its artistic license and highly subjective point of view, the book nevertheless remains an important source of information and perspective on Tubman's life. In 1886 Bradford released a re-written volume, also intended to help alleviate Tubman's poverty, called Harriet, the Moses of her People. In both volumes, Harriet Tubman is hailed as a latter-day Joan of Arc.


Facing accumulated debts (including payments for her property in Auburn), Tubman fell prey in 1873 to a swindle involving gold transfer. Two men, one named Stevenson and the other John Thomas, claimed to have in their possession a cache of gold smuggled out of South Carolina. They offered this treasure – worth about $5,000, they claimed – for $2,000 in cash. They insisted that they knew a relative of Tubman's, and she took them into her home, where they stayed for several days. She knew that white people in the South had buried valuables when Union forces threatened the region, and also that those black men were frequently assigned to digging duties. Thus the situation seemed plausible, and a combination of her financial woes and her good nature led her to go along with the plan. She borrowed the money from a wealthy friend named Anthony Shimer and arranged to receive the gold late one night. Once the men had lured her into the woods, however, they attacked her and knocked her out with chloroform, then stole her purse and bound and gagged her. When she was found by her family, she was dazed and injured, and the money was gone.

New York responded with outrage to the incident, and while some criticized Tubman for her naïveté, most sympathized with her economic hardship and lambasted the con men. The incident refreshed the public's memory of her past service and her economic woes. In 1874, Representatives Clinton D. MacDougall of New York and Gerry W. Hazelton of Wisconsin introduced a bill (H.R. 2711/3786) providing that Tubman be paid "the sum of $2,000 for services rendered by her to the Union Army as a scout, nurse, and spy". The bill was defeated in the Senate.

The Dependent and Disability Pension Act of 1890 made Tubman eligible for a pension as the widow of Nelson Davis. After she documented her marriage and her husband's service record to the satisfaction of the Bureau of Pensions, in 1895 Tubman was granted a widow's pension of $8 per month (equivalent to $250 in 2019), plus a lump sum of $500 (equivalent to $15,400 in 2019) to cover the five-year delay in approval. In December 1897, New York Congressman Sereno E. Payne introduced a bill to grant Tubman a $25 per month soldier's pension for her own service in the Civil War (equivalent to $770 in 2019). Although Congress received documents and letters to support Tubman's claims, some members objected to a woman being paid a full soldier's pension. In February 1899, the Congress passed and President William McKinley signed H.R. 4982, which approved a compromise amount of $20 per month (the $8 from her widow's pension plus $12 for her service as a nurse), but did not acknowledge her as a scout and spy.

Suffragist activism
In her later years, Tubman worked to promote the cause of women's suffrage. A white woman once asked Tubman whether she believed women ought to have the vote, and received the reply: "I suffered enough to believe it." Tubman began attending meetings of suffragist organizations and was soon working alongside women such as Susan B. Anthony and Emily Howland.

Tubman traveled to New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. to speak out in favor of women's voting rights. She described her actions during and after the Civil War and used the sacrifices of countless women throughout modern history as evidence of women's equality to men. When the National Federation of Afro-American Women was founded in 1896, Tubman was the keynote speaker at its first meeting.

This wave of activism kindled a new wave of admiration for Tubman among the press in the United States. A publication called The Woman's Era launched a series of articles on "Eminent Women" with a profile of Tubman. An 1897 suffragist newspaper reported a series of receptions in Boston honoring Tubman and her lifetime of service to the nation. However, her endless contributions to others had left her in poverty, and she had to sell a cow to buy a train ticket to these celebrations.

AME Zion Church, illness, and death
 

 

 

 

By 1911, Tubman's body was so frail that she was admitted into the rest home named in her honor. A New York newspaper described her as "ill and penniless", prompting supporters to offer a new round of donations. Surrounded by friends and family members, she died of pneumonia in 1913. Just before she died, she told those in the room: "I go to prepare a place for you." Tubman was buried with semi-military honors at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn.

Legacy

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Prior to the establishment of the National Historical Parks in Maryland and New York, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument was created in Dorchester County, Maryland by President Barack Obama under the Antiquities Act on March 25, 2013. Public Law 113-291 (Section 3035) was subsequently passed and signed into law on December 19, 2014, and required the Secretary of the Interior to "administer the historical park and the portion of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument administered by the National Park Service (in Maryland) as a single unit of the National Park System, which shall be known as the Harriet Tubman Underground National Historical Park." The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn and Fleming, New York was established on January 10, 2017, and is a sister park to this one in Maryland.

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Harriet Tubman, c. 1885

At the turn of the 20th century, Tubman became heavily involved with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Auburn. In 1903, she donated a parcel of real estate she owned to the church, under the instruction that it be made into a home for "aged and indigent colored people". The home did not open for another five years, and Tubman was dismayed when the church ordered residents to pay a $100 entrance fee. She said: "T]hey make a rule that nobody should come in without they have a hundred dollars. Now I wanted to make a rule that nobody should come in unless they didn't have no money at all." She was frustrated by the new rule but was the guest of honor nonetheless when the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged celebrated its opening on June 23, 1908.

As Tubman aged, the seizures, headaches, and suffering from her childhood head trauma continued to plague her. At some point in the late 1890s, she underwent brain surgery at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital. Unable to sleep because of pains and "buzzing" in her head, she asked a doctor if he could operate. He agreed and, in her words, "sawed open my skull, and raised it up, and now it feels more comfortable". She had received no anesthesia for the procedure and reportedly chose instead to bite down on a bullet, as she had seen Civil War soldiers do when their limbs were amputated.

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Statue by Jane DeDecker commemorating Tubman in Ypsilanti, Michigan

Widely known and well-respected while she was alive, Tubman became an American icon in the years after she died. A survey at the end of the 20th century named her as one of the most famous civilians in American history before the Civil War, third only to Betsy Ross and Paul Revere. She inspired generations of African Americans struggling for equality and civil rights; she was praised by leaders across the political spectrum. The city of Auburn commemorated her life with a plaque on the courthouse. Although it showed pride for her many achievements, its use of dialect ("I nebber run my train off de track"), apparently chosen for its authenticity, has been criticized for undermining her stature as an American patriot and dedicated humanitarian. Nevertheless, the dedication ceremony was a powerful tribute to her memory, and Booker T. Washington delivered the keynote address.

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Tubman's commemorative plaque in Auburn, New York, erected 1914

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