Phillis Wheatley was America's first black poet. She was born in Senegal, Africa in 1753 and she was sold into slavery at the age of seven to John and Susannah Wheatley of Boston. Phillis was soon accepted as a member of the family, and was raised with the Wheatley's other two children. Phillis soon displayed her remarkable talents by learning to read and write English. At the age of twelve she was reading the Greek and Latin classics, and passages from the Bible. At thirteen she wrote her first poem. Phillis became a Boston sensation after she wrote a poem on the death of the evangelical preacher George Whitefield in 1770. Three years later thirty-nine of her poems were published in London as "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral." It was the first book to be published by a black American. Most of Phillis Wheatley's poems reflect her religious and classical New England upbringing. Writing in heroic couplets, many of her poems consist of elegies while others stress the theme of Christian salvation. Phillis Wheatley died in 1784.
Harriet Tubman was born in 1820 in Dorchester co., Md. Her parents were from the Ashanti tribe of West Africa, and they worked as slaves on the Brodas plantation. In 1844, Harriet married a free black man named John Tubman. In 1849 Harriet's fears were realized when the owner of the Brodas plantation died and many of the slaves were scheduled to be sold. After hearing of her fate Harriet planned to escape that very night. Harriet made a 90-mile trip to the Mason-Dixon Line with the help of contacts along the Underground Railroad. Harriet's trip was successful, and she settled in Philadelphia. She worked as a dishwasher and made plans to rescue her family. The next year, Harriet traveled back to Maryland and rescued her sister's family. She then returned to transport her brothers to the North. She went back for her husband, but he had remarried and did not want to follow her. In 1857, Harriet finally returned for her parents and settled them in Auburn, New York. She was nicknamed the "Moses of her people" for leading them to freedom. In all, Harriet made 19 trips on the Underground Railroad and freed more than 300 slaves. With the arrival of the Civil War, Harriet became a spy for the Union army. She later worked in Washington DC as a government nurse. At the end of the war, Harriet returned to her parents in Auburn. In 1897, her bravery even inspired Queen Victoria to award her a silver medal. On March 10, 1913, Harriet died of pneumonia. She was 93 years old.
The Underground Railroad
Prior to 1837, abolitionist organizations flourished all across America. Due in part to the prosperous agricultural crops of the South, it was clear that slavery would not end soon. Once their actions became known, southern abolition organization soon vanished. To continue their operations in the South was sure to meet with violent resistance that often included death. Quakers and other...