Sample Paper on American History during the Life of Harriet Tubman

American History during the Life of Harriet Tubman


Harriet Tubman was an African-American born in Maryland in the early year the 1820s at the time when slave trade law was passed and termed owning slaves a capital offense in America.  Although slavery was termed illegal in America during the time of her birth, landowners participated in the slave trade as a result of improved technologies, the cotton gin and sewing machine that continuously increased the demand for labor in farms. Due to the unavailable labor force, land owners who were white people had to participate in the slave trade to cater for shortages and produce more cotton in Southern states (Clinton 29).

Born as a slave in Maryland, Tubman experienced thorough beatings from her masters just like any other slave working in land owner’s plantations In America. As a child, she was whipped by her different masters when she worked under their leadership and unfortunately, in her early life she suffered a head injury from a heavy metal that was thrown by slave owner targeting to hit another slave but she was instead a victim. The traumatic head injury resulted in her lifetime sufferings of dizziness, spells of hypersomnia and regular pains. Being a Christian believer, Tubman experienced vivid dreams and visions that she described as God’s message to her. When she was of age in the year 1849, Tubman escaped from her slave master and sought refuge in Philadelphia where she joined activists who were abolitionists (Humez 25).

Values and Activities of Activists That Tubman Joined (Quakers)

Quakers were a Christian sect that was formed to inspire peoples especially the white on the need of treating every human being as an equal party. Quakers as abolitionists advocated on the liberation of all people basing their points of view on religious grounds. They used moral persuasion on their agenda of ending slavery in America and hence liberating all people. The ideas of Abolitionist were mostly prominent especially in the Northern churches and triggered politics of the year 1830s that resulted in regional animosity between South and North resulting in the emergence of civil war in America (Clinton 38).

Quakers and their reasons for opposing slavery

Quakers were involved in abolition movements that were formed to fight against slavery in United States of America and UK. They were among the first white people to express their disapproval on slave ownership in American colonies and Europe. The Society of Friends was the first organization that was formed to assume collective measures against slavery and any trading activity that involved slaves as merchandises. The organization later initiated worldwide and ecumenical campaigns that were meant to fight against slavery (Clinton 55).

In the US, Quakers were less successful since they could not manage to oppose the institutions formed to carry out slavery. The reason was that these institutions manifested themselves in their local communities and hence hard to oppose them. Many Quakers stood firm and raised their voices against slavery in the US after independence, although there were groups of local Quakers who had different views on how to respond to issues concerning slavery in their meetings. However, Quakers in the US managed to fight against slave ownership and trade with ease whereby in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, there were local successes for Quaker antislavery in the United States. During the nineteenth century, Quakers became progressively more associated with antislavery activism and antislavery literature. During the nineteenth century, some Quakers in their role of supporting antislavery activism were persecuted in the US by slave owners and escaped to avoid persecution. Nevertheless, they succeeded in their role of antislavery activities that they referred slavery as an unnecessary evil and act against humanity (Clinton 119).

Role played by Tubman in Antislavery Movement

During her escape, Tubman used the networks that were commonly referred to as underground railway. These were informal systems that were effectively organized and composed of white people who were reformers for abolishing slavery, activists, free and enslaved blacks. In North, Tubman found a vibrant community of antislavery activists of which she soon became a part. These were among the Maryland most prominent members of Religious Society of Friends who were commonly referred as Quakers. This was a key first stopping point for Tubman during her escape to the North in the year eighteen forty-nine. She continually accomplished her mission of rescuing fellow slaves and family members who were under severe rules of slave masters and plantations owners. Tubman as an escapist slave managed to make nineteen trips back into the South from Maryland to help other enslaved individuals escape from their master’s anger. She was a famous conductor of Underground Railroad that she used to assist more than three hundred people to escape from their master’s wrath and torture (Larson 95).

Throughout the times of civil war, Tubman had joined the activist movements, and she was working with the Union Army to free slaves from their masters. She participated in everything she could in helping war and also helped the fugitive slaves that continued to settle and seek refuge in Union army camps. She used to nurse the injured soldiers and fugitive slaves and preparing meals for them. She assisted a group of Sea Island slave’s transition to freedom while she was working in conjunction with missionary teachers.  Tubman led the group of freed black men in South Carolina where they destroyed weapons, food, stockpiles of cotton and freed over seven hundred slaves (Larson 103).

Tubman relationship with John Brown

John Brown was a white American abolitionist, and he believed that it was not possible to put an end to the institutions of slavery in the United States without involving armed insurrection that was to rebel against slave trade and slavery. The history explained him as a peculiar abolitionist due to his unusual manner of fighting against slavery in united State. While other people both black and white worked in a feverish manner for the liberation of slaves through collecting petitions, dialogues, helping runaway slaves and in writings, John Brown lacked patience and felt to overcome slavery was an urgent issue that necessitated for personal responsibility. As a result of his impatience, he came up with an idea of forming a rebellion movement against slavery in the United States and hence developed a great desire of defeating the slave owners through attacks in the year 1858. He has succeeded in pursuing his sons to support him and in the fight against slavery through attacks, and they were involved in murdering slave owners in the year 1856 (Wise 196).

His relation with Tubman started in early in the year 1958 when she was introduced to him as a rebel who argued for using violence in the attempt of destroying slavery in the United States. Although Tubman never favored the use of violence against whites, she did not resist his course of directive actions and endorsed her full support on Brow’s goals. They were similar in that, just like Tubman, he too spoke of his mission being a call from God, and he bestowed his trust on Him for protection from the wrath of slave owners. Tubman had also claimed to have experienced a visionary of meeting Brown before their encounter (Lowry 56).

In the same year, Brown began to recruit supporters that were to form a rebellion that was to attack slaveholders and masters. Tubman joined him as an ally in recruiting process and in preparing a strong attack that would win and overthrow the slave owners and hence eradicating slavery in the United States. Brown referred her as General Tubman and valued her awareness of support networks and resources in the borders especially in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware which could be of great importance to him and his team. Some abolitionists did not support Brown’s idea of initiating war to enable him to form new states of freed slaves, but this did not deter him from making preparations for military action. He believed that after the first clash with slaveholders, slaves would support him by conducting rebellion throughout the Southern region. He worked as a close ally of Tubman at the time of rebellion where he requested her to assemble former slaves who were living in Southern Ontario. She was to gather according to Brown’s request only the slaves who were willing and ready to fight and join his fighting force against slavery in the United States. Despite their close relation during the rebellion, in the year 1859 when Brown and his men were planning to launch an attack she could not be reached. Additionally, during the raid on Harpers Ferry that took place late in the year 1859, she was not around and hence did not participate in the attack (Lowry 81).

The instant attack and reaction of the raid was a shock on the part of militant abolitionists who failed to conquer in attacking Harpers Ferry. Tubman described Brown as a hero irrespective of his failure to attack the Harpers Ferry and many people also applauded the action and honored the raiders for their great step towards slave free states.  The raid at Harpers Ferry played a significant role in persuading Northern abolitionists that moral persuasion was not an enough tool to end slavery in the United States and hence called for more direct action. It is believed that secession that precipitated the American Civil War that took place in the year 1961 resulted from the escalated tension that was created by Harpers Ferry raid in the year 1859 (Wise 218).

Antislavery movement long term impact on American culture and politics

The impacts of anti-slavery movement, extents of the abolitionists influence on the American culture, political life, and the society are undeniable up to date. The movements contributed to the formal separation of a church into two churches Methodists and Baptists while founding a large number of independent antislavery free churches. The abolitionists also founded education centers for higher education in the formation of American first racially integrated coeducation. The movements also changed the initial place of women in the society, politically and among different American culture. Women did not exercise their right of voting and due to antislavery movements women positions and rights were respected. Tubman during the Civil War led the group of black men who followed her commands (Sernett 68).

The antislavery movement brought forward an idea that women can rule and can be allowed to hold leadership positions in equal parties with their male counterparts. Women abolitionists were among American’s first feminist movements leaders after independence. The movements also resulted to outlaw segregation and improvement of education sectors. American culture changed in that woman voices were listened to in the society and in politics that was not the case before the formation of antislavery movements. The fight for racial justice and the equality of the sexes began, and it is still supported to date. Most of Americans reformers have borrowed the idealism and specific tactics that were applied by abolitionists. From the nineteenth-century women’s rights movement to the twentieth century Civil Rights, anti-abortion or right-to-life movements and gay rights have all drawn ideas from abolitionist’s legacy (Broyld 78).


The journey to the freedom is applied until now where all movements formed to fight and stand for the rights of American citizens draw their idealism from abolitionists. The united State is in current times being less racially unequal society compared to early times. However, America still struggles with the issue of inequality and injustice and the mode of implementing them in the society. Changes in women’s role have been a significant turnaround experienced in the journey to freedom. Female abolitionists played a leading role in the journey of empowering women and changing their role as observed currently in the offices, home, and political fields. Similarly, the antislavery movements resulted to the need of treating all people equally irrespective of their skin color (Broyld 98).

Works Cited

Broyld, Dann J. “Harriet Tubman: Transnationalism and the Land of a Queen in the Late Antebellum.” Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism 12.2 (2014): 78-98.

Clinton, Catherine. Harriet Tubman: The road to freedom. NY: Little Brown & Company, 2004. Print.

Humez, Jean. Harriet Tubman: The Life and Life Stories. Madison: University of Wisconsin Pres,2005. Print

 Larson, Kate Clifford. Bound For the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero. New York: Ballantine Books, 2006. Print.

Lowry, Beverly. Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life. Random House Tower, NY: Anchor, 2008. Print.

Sernett, Milton C. Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, and History. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007. Print.

Wise, Karsonya. “Beyond Myths and Legends: Teaching Harriet Tubman and Her Legacy of Activism.” Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism 12.2 (2014): 196-218.