Did You Know Harriet Tubman had a $40,000 Bounty?

Ironic, since a slave was bought for a few hundred dollars, maybe a thousand for a healthy male. Why so much? Because she was freeing slaves. And “they” didn’t want other slaves getting ideas that there was another life, that success was possible, really having any ideas at all.

Her First Escape

When her master died indebted, Harriet was afraid of being sold by the widow to make ends meet, so at age 29 traveled solo from Dorchester County, Maryland to Philadelphia using the Northern Star as her guide. When she crossed the Mason-Dixon line she said that she looked at her hands to see if they now looked different. Can you imagine? Looking for a physical manifestation of a soulful change–really a geographical change.

Profound Bravery

Harriet made 19 missions over 11 years, rescuing 300 slaves. Think of the risk; the danger not just from people but from the elements and of getting lost. It’s incredible physical and inner strength.

The hideout homes on the Underground Railroad were used cautiously, in case they were discovered and scouted. So multiple homes in an area could be used, alternating one for the other. What courage for those people, too. I’d like to think that I would be one of them. I know I would be indignant about the circumstance, but I also know I would fret about getting caught. I don’t know if I would overcome the latter to do what’s right.

Who’s Safe?

Members of the Underground Railroad identified themselves with a light in the window and the simple phrase, “I’m a friend of a friend.” Innocuous and laden.

Why did they call themselves the Underground Railroad? As homage and pun to the newly constructed physical railroad.

Family History

On the way to Niagara Falls, all riders on the Underground Railroad stopped at William Still’s place in Philadelphia. A black man, he captured as much about their family history as they knew in order to help connect kin for future generations. He also transcribed their tales of slavery and escape in a book I intend to read: The Underground Railroad: Authentic Narratives and First-Hand Accounts (African American)*

How does this History Relate to My Travels?

Harriet Tubman was from Dorchester County, Maryland; and it’s from where she first escaped. I drove along Harriet Tubman Historic Route and went to her Museum. It was incredible.


Which figure from history do you admire?


*Disclaimer: if you buy a copy of this book via this link, Amazon.com will give me a referral fee. There’s no pressure, I’ll have plenty to eat if you don’t buy it, but I’m legally and ethically bound to tell you.

And another disclaimer: I haven’t read the book yet, so don’t come kvetching to me if you didn’t like it. But you shouldn’t tell anyone if you don’t like a book about true accounts of life as a slave and the harrowing efforts to escape. I mean really.

8 Responses


Slavery did not end with the conclusion of the Civil War. Add “The Warmth of Other Suns” to your reading list, the story America’s great migration from southern states. Isabel Wilkerson. Non-fiction winner of National Book Critics Circle Award and Pulitzer Prize. Reads like fiction as it focuses on four real people to tell their story against the background of the impending civil rights movement. Powerful. And distressing.

I’d never thought about slavery not ending with the war. Adding the book to my list.


Really nice post. I will make sure Miles and I go to this museum when we’re on our college tour (!) next spring.

Another good book for learning about post-Civil War “slavery” is “Slavery by Another Name,” by Douglas Blackmon.

Thanks for the recommendation. Adding it to my goodreads.com list right now!


You make history fun and interesting … thanks for learning us.

Thanks for paying attention!

Just returned from a wkd in NYC. Our African-american tour guide on our Gospel tour of Harlem mentioned that there are no statues, memorials to Harriet Tubman because she was a very controversial figure. “Her wish was to free the slaves, and she didn’t care who she had to shoot in the process of achieving that, black or white.” She also said that she had portrayed Harriet on stage and had done lots of research on her.

Gospel tour of Harlem? how interesting! Please share more details!

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