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The Biggest Impact of Harriet Tubman

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Before I could start this assignment, I had to understand what the abolitionist movement was and how it pertains to the world we live in today. I had no idea what an abolitionist was, or how it correlates with how we live and view equal rights. When looking up certain abolitionist states, it had me surprised by how many slaves states there were and also how the rest were free slaves. It was a little confusing when I read about free slaves not being free. Many people in the South were harboring slaves, knowing that it was illegal to own slaves in that said free state. Many people didn’t care about the laws and they did what they wanted without any consequences. It was interesting to find out that President Abraham Lincoln, at the time, was against slavery and he did everything he could to stop slavery in every state. To understand the abolitionist movement, I had to not only define it, but I needed to understand the four main movements throughout the early 1800s that helped free slaves. I also had to choose what abolitionist I believed had the biggest impact which was Harriet Tubman.

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The abolitionist movement, also known as abolitionism, was a movement that was deemed to end slavery. In Western Europe and the Americas, abolitionism was a historic movement that sought to end the Atlantic slave trade to have all slaves be free from slavery. In better words, individuals sought the immediate and full emancipation of all slaves around the world. The abolition movement took place from 1830 to 1870, with their first leaders of the campaign being majority white, religious Americans. There were also many leaders of the movement who were black with both men and women who escaped from bondage and slavery. White Americans and Black former slaves band together to send petitions to Congress, ran for political office and continued to protest to the people of the South with anti-slavery literature.

To stop slavery, an organization called the American Colonization Society, proposed the idea of freeing slaves and sending them all back to Africa. This organization was founded by a man named Robert Finley in 1817, which was an extreme compromise between antislavery activists and slavery supporters. He founded this organization in Washington D.C. in the hopes to establish the ability where slaves could live free of white prejudices. It was believed that Blacks came to America on their free will, but in fact, Blacks were forced to emigrate. They were chained and put on ships to be enslaved and taken advantage of because Whites believed they were superior. In some cases, slaves earned their freedom on condition that they immediately leave and go back to African to never return. By 1860, nearly 12,000 African Americans had returned to Africa. Between 1821 and 1847, millions of slaves migrated to Liberia, but only a few thousand blacks made it. A large number of slaves died from malnutrition, poor health, and tropical diseases. The way they were transported took a big toll on their health and because tools and supplies were very expensive, the Whites didn’t care about losing the slaves. It was less for them to buy and more for them to work the slaves however they wanted.

With the American Colonization Society, there comes another activist organization called the Free Soil Party that opposes the expansion of slavery. These activists also wanted to abolish slavery completely, believing that everyone should be equal rights to ownership of oneself. The Free Soil Party opposed the expansion of slavery into U.S. territories and newly formed states such as Kansas. They believed that there was nothing they could do for the already enslaved states and instead tried to stop other states from enslaving. The Free Soil Party only lasted six years from 1848 to 1854, when it then emerged into what we know now as the Republican Party. The Republican party was mainly focused on one issue they believed was most important. This issue was opposing the expansion of slavery into the western territories of the United States. A man named Salmon P. Chase was elected governor of Ohio in 1855. His campaign was on abolition and believed in the establishment of the Free-Soil Party. This was around the time when President Lincoln was against slavery and Chase served as Lincoln’s secretary of the treasury. They both fought against the enslavement of Blacks and they made sure they were heard. Some so many people didn’t care for people to own slaves, but they joined the Free Soil Party to obtain free labor. Opposing slavery’s expansion was fear in many landowners’ minds because they were rivalry with Southern slaveholders. Northerners who owned land feared that they weren’t able to compete economically with slave labor. This then led to the party’s idea for free labor. With the scrapping of the Free Soil Party, it was always controversial because the majority of the party’s members were not scrapping. So many Whites believed that Blacks were inferior to them and this led them to fear them. Whites did not have the desire to provide Blacks with equal political, economic, and social rights and they took away their rights. Most slaves believed that they shouldn’t read or write or even become educated because they were taught differently.

However, the Missouri Compromise made an effort to have a balance of power in Congress between slave and free states. When the Missouri Compromise was passed in 1820, it stayed that Missouri remained as a slave state and Maine as a free state. Meaning that Maine wasn’t allowed to own slaves and Missouri was. A man named James Tallmadgehad views to have an antislavery amendment and for it to be added to the legislation. They proceeded to call it the Tallmadge amendment which prohibited the introduction of slaves into Missouri and provided for slaves to be emancipated at the age of twenty-five. With many efforts of the Tallmadgehad amendment, the Senate decided to pass a bill that allowed Maine to enter the Union as a free state and Missouri was admitted without restrictions on slavery.

When learning about the abolition movement, the one person that stood out to me was Harriet Tubman because she was an American abolitionist woman who helped free the slaves. Harriet Tubman believed in the freedom of Africans and it was one of the greatest impacts on the abolition movement. The most major impact of the abolitionist movement was the impact it had on the world with slavery into an emotional and political issue throughout hundreds of years. With Harriet Tubman being born into slavery, she knew from the beginning that slavery was wrong in many different ways. Tubman wasn’t the only one who believed that slavery was wrong and many people helped her free the slaves. When Harriet Tubman escaped, she knew she had to save as many people from slavery as possible. She was known as the conductor of the Underground Railroad, but she was much more than just a woman who freed slaves. Tubman was a nurse, a union spy, a woman’s suffrage supporter and a heroin million of people’s eyes. Harriet knew that she wanted to free slaves by the age of 12 when she saw a slave owner trying to throw a heavyweight at a slave. Instead of walking away and ignoring the brutal act, she stepped in front of the slave, stopping the heavyweight from hitting the slave and knocking her right in the head. The weight hit her head with great force that it broke her skull and left her with headaches for the rest of her life. In 1840, Harriet’s father became free and it was set forth that Harriet and her siblings would also be free. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. Harriet’s slave owner didn’t want to let her or her siblings go and they decided to keep them like slaves instead of allowing them to be free. Nine years later, Harriet grabbed her siblings in the middle of the night and ran away to Pennsylvania and became a free woman, but even though she was free, she wasn’t satisfied until her family was free as well. Upon her return, she helped her nieces escape to Philadelphia via the Underground Railroad. Harriet made about 13 missions to rescue about 70 enslaved people, including family and friends with the help of antislavery activists and safe houses that were provided and the Underground Railroad.

One of the most controversial laws of the 19th Century was the Fugitive Slave Act, which was a law that allowed the capture of slaves. Once slaves were captured, they were returned to their owners and were treated worse. This was why many people didn’t want to risk running away and being captured once again. The Fugitive Slave Act originated in 1793, where it authorized local governments to capture and return escaped slaves to their owners and punished anyone who helped them escape. If they captured a suspected slave that was running away, hunters were allowed to bring them back and the slaves were put before a judge. For the slave owner to keep their slave, they had to provide evidence proving the slave was their property before they escaped. If the judge believed the slave owner, the owner was able to take custody of the enslaved person and return them to their home state to become slaves once again. To punish the individuals who helped escape these slaves, they were fined a $500 penalty and banished from their state to never return.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was a revision that added more provisions regarding runaways and made it a harsher punishment for anyone who got in the way of their capture. Southern politicians added a Fugitive Slave Clause in the Constitution states that “no person held to service or labor.” It meant that when a slave escapes from their owner and comes to a free state, they would be released from bondage and never to return.  

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