9 Surprising Facts About Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman
Photos.com/iStock via Getty Images

Reverend Paul Carter, who has led tours of Harriet Tubman’s longtime home in Auburn, New York, for more than 25 years, is often startled by how little people know of this escaped enslaved woman turned Underground Railroad guide and Civil War spy. He and the property’s president and CEO, Karen Hill, are happy to educate people about Tubman’s remarkable life. Carter leads visitors through part of the property Tubman owned for five decades, which is now part of the National Park system. “We absolutely think she is one of the all-time great Americans,” Hill says. Here are nine facts Carter and Hill share that tend to stun visitors.

1. She wasn’t born Harriet Tubman.

Not even close. Harriet Tubman's birth name was Araminta Ross, and her family called her "Minty" as a child. She changed her name to Harriet, in honor of her mother, when she was a teenager.

2. Harriet Tubman persevered despite significant health issues.

A weight thrown at another slave hit Tubman in the head when she was young. She nearly died, and for the rest of her life she suffered from headaches, seizures, and visions. She undertook journeys of hundreds and thousands of miles despite deep physical limitations.

3. Harriet Tubman rescued her own family.

After making her own escape from slavery, Tubman began her work as an Underground Railroad guide by going back to Maryland’s Eastern Shore for her siblings. Ultimately she led more than 70 people to safety, many to St. Catharines, Ontario.

4. Harriet Tubman wasn't very tall.

Though she had a reputation for being forceful—she was said to threaten people who balked along the route to freedom with a gun—Tubman was tiny, standing just under 5 feet.

5. Harriet Tubman outlived her husbands.

While she was gone conducting along the Underground Railroad, her husband, John Tubman, took another wife. After he died, she also remarried. Her second husband, Nelson Davis, was much younger—at least 24 years—but he, too, predeceased her by many years.

6. Harriet Tubman was the first woman to lead a U.S. military raid.

Tubman was given $200 for three years as a cook, nurse, scout, and spy for the Union Army during the Civil War. Her service included leading a raid that freed 750 slaves in South Carolina—making her the first woman to lead an armed raid in enemy territory in the United States, according to Hill.

7. Harriet Tubman got some help from powerful friends—like William Seward.

She developed a friendship with one of the most powerful men of the time, William Seward, who later served as Lincoln’s Secretary of State. It was his house in Auburn that she purchased as her family residence, for a very reasonable price, in 1859.

8. Harriet Tubman never stopped serving others.

When the war was over, her giving didn’t stop. Tubman pushed tirelessly for women’s suffrage. And though she always struggled financially, she was a woman of deep faith who shared what little she had, donating a piece of her property as a Home for the Aged serving elderly African Americans. She wound up living there during her own later years, too.

9. Harriet Tubman lived an extremely long life for her time.

She died when she was around 93 years old (she is believed to have been born in about 1820), which means she lived an astonishingly long life for the time period, especially considering the physical strains she’d endured.

Amazon’s Big Fall Sale Features Deals on Electronics, Kitchen Appliances, and Home Décor

Dash/Keurig
Dash/Keurig

If you're looking for deals on items like Keurigs, BISSELL vacuums, and essential oil diffusers, it's usually pretty slim pickings until the holiday sales roll around. Thankfully, Amazon is starting these deals a little earlier with their Big Fall Sale, where customers can get up to 20 percent off everything from home decor to WFH essentials and kitchen gadgets. Now you won’t have to wait until Black Friday for the deal you need. Make sure to see all the deals that the sale has to offer here and check out our favorites below.

Electronics

Dash/Amazon

- BISSELL Lightweight Upright Vacuum Cleaner $170 (save $60)

- Dash Deluxe Air Fryer $80 (save $20)

- Dash Rapid 6-Egg Cooker $17 (save $3)

- Keurig K-Café Single Coffee Maker $169 (save $30)

- COMFEE Toaster Oven $29 (save $9)

- AmazonBasics 1500W Oscillating Ceramic Heater $31 (save $4)

Home office Essentials

HP/Amazon

- HP Neverstop Laser Printer $250 (save $30)

- HP ScanJet Pro 2500 f1 Flatbed OCR Scanner $274 (save $25)

- HP Printer Paper (500 Sheets) $5 (save $2)

- Mead Composition Books Pack of 5 Ruled Notebooks $11 (save $2)

- Swingline Desktop Hole Punch $7 (save $17)

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Selieve/Amazon

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Home Improvement

DEWALT/Amazon

- DEWALT 20V MAX LED Hand Held Work Light $54 (save $65)

- Duck EZ Packing Tape with Dispenser, 6 Rolls $11 (save $6)

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Home Décor

NECA/Amazon

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Did the Northern Lights Play a Role in the Sinking of the Titanic? A New Paper Says It’s Possible

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912, is the most famous maritime disaster in history. The story has been retold countless times, but experts are still uncovering new details about what happened that night more than a century later. The latest development in our understanding of the event has to do with the northern lights. As Smithsonian reports, the same solar storm that produced an aurora over the North Atlantic waters where the Titanic sank may have caused equipment malfunctions that led to its demise.

Independent Titanic researcher Mila Zinkova outlines the new theory in a study published in the journal Weather. Survivors and eyewitnesses from the night of the Titanic's sinking reported seeing the aurora borealis light up the dark sky. James Bisset, second officer of the ship that responded to the Titanic's distress calls, the RMS Carpathia, wrote in his log: "There was no moon, but the aurora borealis glimmered like moonbeams shooting up from the northern horizon."

Zinkova argues that while the lights themselves didn't lead the Titanic on a crash course with the iceberg, a solar storm that night might have. The northern lights are the product of solar particles colliding and reacting with gas molecules in Earth's atmosphere. A vivid aurora is the result of a solar storm expelling energy from the sun's surface. In addition to causing colorful lights to appear in the sky, solar storms can also interfere with magnetic equipment on Earth.

Compasses are susceptible to electromagnetic pulses from the sun. Zinkova writes that the storm would have only had to shift the ship's compass by 0.5 degrees to guide it off a safe course and toward the iceberg. Radio signals that night may have also been affected by solar activity. The ship La Provence never received the Titanic's distress call, despite its proximity. The nearby SS Mount Temple picked it up, but their response to the Titanic went unheard. Amateur radio enthusiasts were initially blamed for jamming the airwaves used by professional ships that night, but the study posits that electromagnetic waves may have played a larger role in the interference.

If a solar storm did hinder the ship's equipment that night, it was only one condition that led to the Titanic's sinking. A cocktail of factors—including the state of the sea, the design of the ship, and the warnings that were ignored—ultimately sealed the vessel's fate.

[h/t Smithsonian]