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Harriet Tubman Biography - From Slavery to Freedom [4]

Later Years of Activism and Reform

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Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman

Courtesy Library of Congress
Harriet Tubman - About 1900

Harriet Tubman - About 1900

Archive Photos / Getty Images

Previous: 3: Civil War Service: Nurse, Scout, Spy

In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, Harriet Tubman worked to establish schools for freedmen in South Carolina -- while she never learned to read and write, she appreciated the value of education for the future of freedom.

Tubman soon returned to her home in Auburn, New York, which served as her base for the rest of her life. Her husband, John Tubman, who had remarried soon after she left slavery, died in 1867, and in 1869 she married again. Her second husband, Nelson Davis, had been a Union Army soldier, and was more than twenty years younger than Tubman.

Tubman welcomed several young children into her home and raised them as if they were her own. She also provided shelter and support for a number of aged, impoverished, former slaves.

To finance her own living and her support of others, she worked with Sarah Hopkins Bradford to publish Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman. The publication was initially financed by abolitionists, including Wendell Phillips and Gerrit Smith, the latter a supporter of John Brown and first cousin of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Tubman also worked with her friend Susan B. Anthony on woman suffrage and toured to speak about her experiences as "Moses." Queen Victoria invited her to England for the Queen's birthday, and sent Tubman a silver medal.

In 1886, Mrs. Bradford wrote, with Tubman's help, a second book, Harriet the Moses of Her People, a full-scale biography of Tubman, to further provide for Tubman's support. In the 1890s, having lost her battle to get a military pension on her own, Tubman was able to collect a pension as the widow of US veteran Nelson Davis.

In 1896, in a touching link to the next generation of African American women activists, Tubman spoke at the first meeting of the National Association of Colored Women.

Thinking of the future and continuing her support for aged and poor African Americans, Tubman established a home, incorporated in 1903 and opened in 1908, initially called the John Brown Home for Aged and Indigent Colored People, and later named for her instead of Brown. The home, to which she moved in 1911, continued for several years after her death on March 10, 1913 of pneumonia. She was buried with full military honors.

To honor her memory, a World War II Liberty ship was named for Harriet Tubman. In 1978 she was featured on a commemorative stamp in the U.S. Her home has been named a national historic landmark. And in 2000, New York Congressman Edolphus Towns introduced a bill to grant Tubman the veteran status she was denied in her lifetime.

The four phases of Harriet Tubman's life -- her life as a slave, as an abolitionist and conductor on the Underground Railroad, as a Civil War soldier, nurse, spy and scout, and as a social reformer and charitable citizen -- are all important aspects of this woman's long life of dedication to service. All these phases deserve attention and further study.

Harriet Tubman Biography: From Slavery to Freedom

  1. Harriet Tubman's Life in Slavery
  2. Harriet Tubman as Underground Railroad Conductor, Abolitionist, Women's Rights Advocate
  3. Harriet Tubman's Civil War Service: Nurse, Scout, Spy
  4. Harriet Tubman's Later Years of Activism and Reform

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