Harriet “Rit” Green Ross (1787-1880) was an African-American woman born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland. She was married to Benjamin Ross, and together they had nine children, including the famous abolitionist Harriet Tubman. In 1808, Harriet and Ben had their first of nine children, Linah. In 1822, they had their fourth child, Araminta, who was later known as Harriet Tubman. In 1853, Gourney Pattison filed a lawsuit against Eliza Ann Brodess for the profits from hiring Harriet and her children and the sale of Linah and Soph. Harriet and Benjamin Ross eventually fled Caroline County for Canada in June 1857. They eventually settled in Auburn, New York, where Harriet Ross died in October 1880, having lived nearly a century.
Her Daughter, Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman was born Araminta Ross in either 1820 or 1822 to enslaved parents, Harriet Green and Ben Ross. Her mother, Rit, worked as a cook for the Brodess family, while her father, Ben, was a skilled woodsman who managed the timber work on Thompson’s plantation. Rit was determined to keep her family together despite the threat of slavery, and she even confronted her enslaver about the sale of her youngest son, Moses. This event had a profound impact on Tubman, as it demonstrated that resistance was possible and that she could fight for her freedom.
At the age of five or six, she was hired out as a nursemaid to a woman named “Miss Susan”. When the baby woke up and cried, she was whipped. As a child, Tubman also worked at the home of a planter named James Cook. As an adolescent, Tubman suffered a severe head injury when an overseer threw a two-pound metal weight at another enslaved person who was attempting to flee. After her injury, Tubman began experiencing visions and vivid dreams, which she interpreted as revelations from God. She rejected the teachings of white preachers who urged enslaved people to be passive and obedient victims to those who trafficked and enslaved them; instead, she found guidance in the Old Testament tales of deliverance. This religious perspective informed her actions throughout her life.
She famously escaped slavery in 1849 and soon after returned to Maryland to help rescue her family. Tubman then went on to help dozens of other enslaved people to freedom, travelling by night and in extreme secrecy. After the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was passed, she even helped guide escapees farther north into British North America (Canada), and helped newly freed people find work.
During the Civil War, she worked as a cook, nurse and an armed scout and spy, becoming the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war at Combahee Ferry, which liberated more than 700 enslaved people. After the war, Tubman retired to a property she purchased in Auburn, New York, where she became an advocate of women’s suffrage and cared for her aging parents. In 1911, Tubman was admitted to the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged in Auburn, New York due to her frail health. On March 10, 1913, she passed away due to pneumonia, surrounded by her family and friends. She was buried with semi-military honors at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn.