Artist: StudioEIS (Brooklyn, NY), 2019
MSA SC 1545-3514
Araminta “Minty” Ross was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in Dorchester County in 1822. At an early age, she was hired out to work for other families as a muskrat trapper, weaver, and nurse. She suffered many punishments including a serious head-injury. After marrying John Tubman, who was a free black man, she adopted the name Harriet Tubman and escaped to freedom on September 17, 1849. Tubman returned to Maryland many times to rescue her family and dozens of others who were enslaved. She became the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad; between 1850 and 1860 she made at least thirteen trips into slaveholding territory to guide as many as seventy enslaved people to freedom.
During the Civil War, Tubman worked for the Union Army as a cook and nurse, and also served as an armed scout using her contacts and knowledge of the terrainto provide intelligence. She was the first woman to lead a military expedition during the Combahee River Raid, which liberated more than 700 enslaved people in South Carolina. She settled in Auburn, New York, where she lived until her death in 1913.
Her depiction here at age forty-two is inspired by a newly-discovered photograph jointly acquired by the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Library of Congress in 2017.