Harriet Tubman changed the world by escaping from slavery, becoming an abolitionist and helping many slaves attain their freedom by means of the Underground Railroad, a secret network of routes and safe houses to aid runaway slaves. Later in life, she helped John Brown plan his raid on Harper's Ferry and assisted the Union army during the Civil War as a scout, spy and nurse.
After a traumatic childhood as a slave in Maryland, Tubman escaped to Philadelphia in 1849 when she was a young adult. However, rather than remain in the free North, she was determined to rescue her family and other blacks who were still enslaved. She made many trips back to the South, managing to free her parents, siblings and many others. She became known as "Moses" for her ability to successfully lead so many people safely to freedom.
Tubman always carried a pistol, and though she did not accompany John Brown on his raid, after his death she called him a martyr. In 1863, Tubman became the first woman to lead an armed assault in the Civil War, guiding Colonel James Montgomery and his troops to some plantations along the Combahee River and freeing 750 slaves. Although she became famous, she died in poverty, afflicted by headaches and seizures brought on by injuries from her time as a slave. She was buried with military honors at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, N.Y. Many schools are named after her, and the Harriet Tubman Museum in Cambridge, Md., commemorates her life.