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Underground Railroad Research Forum

Re: Slaves freed by Harriet Tubman?

I do not know where you saw the 3,000, but that must have been a typo or someone thinking the higher the number, the greater it makes Tubman seem. 300 rescued in 19 trips has been the accepted figure since 1869 when Sarah Bradford put those numbers in her biography of Tubman, "Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman." Research indicates, however, that Tubman brought away approximately 70 individuals in about 13 trips, and gave instructions to probably an additional 60 or so who made their way to freedom on their own. Tubman herself claimed to have brought away 50 or 60 in 8 or 9 trips. Why Sarah Bradford inflated these numbers is not known, although she was a Victorian sentimental author, inclined to dramatize her work. Needless to say, it wasn't necessary to do that. While there were people who returned to the slave states to rescue others - the great majority did so to bring out immediately family members (wife, children, etc.), Tubman's actions are in a class of their own. I think there were a couple of figures like Tubman, though free to begin with, and mostly men. Tubman was unique in that she returned over and over again, and the fact that she returned more than once is remarkable and heroic. Her efforts focused on family and friends, and her repeated attempts to bring away her sister Rachel and Rachel's two children Ben and Angerine, during the 1850s was one of the reasons she brought away so many other people - once she was already on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, she didn't waste a trip. She would gather another party of freedom seekers when efforts to liberate her sister failed. Rachel died in 1859 before Tubman could affect her escape, and the children remained in bondage. All of Tubman's rescues occurred in Maryland.

Of course, you could add the 750 or so slaves she helped liberate during the Combahee River Raid in South Carolina during the Civil War, with Col. Montgomery's 2nd SC black regiment.

Check out my website for some information on Tubman's URR activities, including some runaway notices for a few of them.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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