Harriet Tubman was well-known for her work as a conductor for the Underground Railroad and her consistent stance against abolition. But did you know she also started a home for elderly African-Americans?
Harriet Tubman started the “Harriet Tubman Home for the Elderly” in 1908, a retirement home intended for indigent and elderly African-Americans. She wanted to make sure her caretaking work would last beyond her lifetime. She was admitted to the home in 1911 and stayed there until her death in 1913.
Who is Harriet Tubman?
Harriet Tubman was originally named Araminta Ross. She was born on March 19, 1822. Her parents, Harriet Green and Ben Ross were enslaved. Her mother was owned by Mary Pattison Brodess, while Ben was held by Anthony Thompson. Later on, Thompson, who ran a large plantation, married Brodess.
Even as a child, Tubman was beaten and whipped by various masters. She even suffered from a traumatic head injury when an irate master threw a heavy metal weight towards another enslaved person but hit her head instead. This injury affected her long-term; she would experience dizziness, pain, and hypersomnia. After this incident, she began experiencing vivid dreams and strange visions of God. This eventually led her to be devoutly religious, in addition to her Methodist upbringing.
By 1984, Tubman escaped from Philadelphia to go home to Maryland. Her intention was to rescue her family, but slowly after, she started saving one group at a time. She brought her relatives and dozens of enslaved people to freedom. They traveled at the dead of the night in extreme secrecy. Tubman was called Moses and has never lost a single passenger.
After the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was passed, Tubman led more people further north into Canada. She even helped the newly freed slaves find work.
When the Civil War began, Tubman started working for the Union Army. She started off as a cook and eventually got trained to be a nurse. Then she as time passed, she became an armed scout and a spy. She was the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, and she guided the raid at the Combahee Ferry that liberated over 700 enslaved people. Underground Railroad National Historical Park. Tubman’s life is commemorated at the Salem Chapel National Historic Site in Ontario, Canada. (Source: Parks Canada)
Opening the Harriet Tubman Home for the Elderly
After the war, Tubman retired and went back to the family home on the property she bought in 1859 in Auburn, New York. In this home, she cared for her aging parents while she actively participated in the women’s suffrage movement until she succumbed to illness. Tubman was eventually admitted to the Harriet Tubman Home for the Elderly in 1911, where she lived the rest of her days.
Tubman’s ultimate goal was to make sure her work and legacy lived on beyond her life. This is why she established the Harriet Tubman Home for the Elderly for aging African-Americans. She eventually became an icon of courage and freedom.
Today the space has been turned into a National Park in honor of Harriet Tubman, along with other areas such as the Harriet Tublam Underground Railroad National Historical Park. Tubman’s life is commemorated at the Salem Chapel National Historic Site in Ontario, Canada. (Source: Parks Canada)