Harriet Tubman suffered a violent head injury as a child causing her to frequently slip into into sleep like states. These would produce vivid dreamlike hallucinations that Tubman interpreted as messages from god, to devote her life to freeing southern slaves through the Underground Railroad.

The Brain Injury That Helped End Slavery

An American icon of freedom and resilience, Harriet Tubman’s portrait is slated to grace the $20 bill beginning in 2030. It’s an auspicious achievement for a hero of civil rights who escaped from slavery, led hundreds of others to do the same, all while balancing a challenging array of chronic conditions including migraines and acute attacks of narcolepsy.

Before escaping to freedom and leading hundreds of southern slaves north along the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman lived for nearly 30 years in slavery. Born Araminta Harriet Ross in 1820 to enslaved parents Ben Ross and Harriet Green, Tubman was one of nine children and grew up on a Maryland plantation. It was near there that, when she was around 12 years old, she was mercilessl… Continue Reading (6 minute read)

12 thoughts on “Harriet Tubman suffered a violent head injury as a child causing her to frequently slip into into sleep like states. These would produce vivid dreamlike hallucinations that Tubman interpreted as messages from god, to devote her life to freeing southern slaves through the Underground Railroad.”

  1. vaporwavies

    On a scale of “snapped and killed your entire family” to “orchestrated the underground railroad,” how well did you handle your traumatic brain injury

  2. Sorceree

    You should read her biographical accounts written by her friend Sarah Hopkins Bradford. Supposedly, she also received messages/thoughts in real time, guiding her path, and directing her on where to turn to avoid the trackers. It seems to have worked remarkably well! I love Harriet Tubman!

  3. SouthernYankeeWitch

    Hey man. Whatever her motivation, she was still a GOAT, hero, badass, every other word there is saying someone is the absolute end all.

  4. that_is_illogical

    Not exactly a random “head injury,” it was a violent attack from an “overseer” because she would not help reabduct another human who had been deemed property. Seems like a logical origin story for a hero.

    Also this article is um… not written properly… I tried to quote it but the edits required to not further dehumanize people who were treated as property just became too much…

    Edit: ok not slave owner, overseer. These details matter more to some. Also thanks for the comments, likes, etc.

  5. klingma

    If Birth of Nation (v2) accurately portrayed Nat Turner it would have been clear that he legitimately suffered from Schizophrenia or some other psychological delusions. I just find it interesting that both him and Tubman had similar “callings from God” and one went on to help slaves escape and one tried to lead a failed slave rebellion.

  6. towhom_it_mayconcern

    Sounds a little bit like epilepsy. Paul/Saul was thought to have had the same thing.

  7. ChillyChillums

    Harriet Tubmam hallucinates and becomes a slave-freeing legend, I do it and I’m just a degenerate spilling slushies in a 7-11.

  8. Zanthrous

    Sounds like a temporal lobe seizure. Common with head injuries often to the front of the skull/eye socket.

  9. Not_Machines

    Yeah I remember learning about that in school. I remembering thinking how tough she must have been to deal with that and still manage to help guide escaped slaves through the Underground Railroad.

  10. cobbled_thoughts

    She was my childhood hero (and still is)

  11. marioshroomer

    It’s more likely that it was juat the effect of massive trauma but then again who’s to say that it wasn’t divine inspiration?

  12. TheWalkingDead91

    By “violent”, I’m guessing it means it was a result of physical abuse by a slave owner or overseer……

    Isn’t that poetic justice indeed….hit a kid on the head….and that leads to slave owners losing hundreds of their own slaves.

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