We’re starting off our series of posts for Black History Month with someone who is well-known across both the country and the world, but she is rarely mentioned as being disabled: the former enslaved person that became an abolitionist, Harriet Tubman.
Born into slavery in March 1822, Harriet escaped enslavement and went on to make 13 trips to the South to free over 70 people through the Underground Railroad. What some may not know is that early in life she received a traumatic brain injury from being hit in the head with a heavy metal weight by an angry overseer. The effects of this TBI persisted throughout her life, ranging from dizziness to epilepsy seizures. She continued to experience violence after receiving this injury, which only compounded the effects.
Harriet continued her work throughout the American Civil War, working for the Union Army as a nurse, a scout and a spy. Later in life, she worked with the women’s suffrage movement, fighting for the right to vote for women. Tubman died in 1913 from pneumonia, and we continue to honor her legacy today. Monuments, historical sites and museums have been erected in her honor across the country, but the greatest monument of her honor is the continued fight for civil rights, including disability rights.
Efforts have been made to have Harriet replace Andrew Jackson on the United States $20 bill, and while this tremendous change was delayed for a few years, as of 2021 the process has restarted.
You can read more about Harriet Tubman on Wikipedia by clicking here.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons