Yesterday, Google Doodles continued their excellent record in 2014 by honoring abolitionist, suffragist, heroine, and leader of the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman.
Tubman was born sometime between 1820 and 1825; because her parents were slaves, the details of her birthdate and place were not recorded, and are lost to history. For that reason, the Doodles team wouldn’t be able to honor Tubman on her birthday, but used her Doodle to usher in Black History Month here in the U.S. As part of my research for Speaking Up, I’ve thought quite a bit about how many key figures in women’s history do not have recorded birthdates (more on that coming soon, in a new project!) — so I applaud the Doodles team for using this opportunity to honor an incredible figure in our nation’s history.
Tubman escaped slavery in 1849, benefiting from the Underground Railroad network. She then began a remarkable career rescuing her family and dozens of others from slavery, moving under cover of darkness. At great personal risk, and over a period of eight years, she rescued more than 300 slaves and aided in the escape of more than 50 others. Tubman was a well-known figure in the abolitionist movement, but is also unique in the incredible success of her freedom work — she never lost a single escapee on the route northward.
She also served the Union Army during the Civil War, in positions ranging from cooking and nursing to scouting and spying. In an 1863 raid on Confederate-controlled plantations, Tubman led the rescue of more than 700 slaves. Following the war, Tubman settled in Auburn, New York, and continued her work in the abolitionist and suffragist movements.
Tubman died in Auburn in 1913, and was buried there with military honors. Her home is now a museum, and her gravestone is on the National Register of Historic places. Tubman has been honored with a USPS stamp, a National Monument on Maryland’s Eastern Shore dedicated to the Underground Railroad, and a U.S. Liberty ship named after her.