Harriet Tubman
An American Legend

Inspirational Life Stories in Simple English

Reading and Listening Practice

Discover the extraordinary life of Harriet Tubman, an American Legend and inspiration to millions. Explore her remarkable journey through this inspirational true life story in Simple English.
This lesson is perfect for reading and listening practice.
English level: B1-B2.
Harriet Tubman Audio Story
Our story begins in 1820. This is a time of great difficulty and suffering due to slavery in the United States.
Harriet Tubman is born into slavery and faces cruelty and injustice from a young age. However, she shows incredible courage and accomplishes things no one believed were ever possible.

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Harriet Tubman | An American Legend | Inspirational Life Stories in Simple English (Reading and Listening Practice)

Story Text

Meet Harriet Tubman, a brave woman with a big heart. She lives in a time where life can be very tough.
But Harriet – she is tougher.
She promises to fight for her freedom and help others do the same.
And she keeps this promise, every day. Let's follow in Harriet's footsteps and learn about her heroic life.

Early Life: Born into Slavery

Let's go back, way back to the year 1820. This is when a girl named Araminta Ross, who we know as Harriet Tubman, is born. She is born into a life of slavery in Maryland.
Harriet is one of nine children. Her parents, Harriet "Rit" Green and Ben Ross, are enslaved people. She learns about life through their eyes.
Life as a slave is not easy. Harriet works hard from a very young age. She gets jobs at merely 6 years old.

The Store Trip That Changes Everything

Harriet has a strong sense of justice, which shows when she is only 12.
She is in a store when something scary happens. A slave runs away from his owner. The owner is very mad and throws a heavy metal weight at him.
Harriet quickly steps in between them to protect the person, but sadly, the weight hits her head.
At that moment, Harriet's life changes forever.
The heavy weight hurts her head very badly. For the rest of her life, she has pain, sleep problems, and sometimes she even faints.
But Harriet is strong. She does not let the pain stop her from doing great things. She becomes a hero.
Even as a child, she dreams of freedom. She hears stories about the North and a place where slaves can be free.These stories make a significant impact on her.

Marriage to a Free Man

The year is 1844, and Harriet is 24 years old. She marries a man named John Tubman. She changes her last name from Ross to Tubman.

John is a free man. He is not a slave. But Harriet is still a slave. Even though she is married to John, she is not free.

Where Harriet lives, it is possible for a slave and a free person to get married. Many African Americans are free, and sometimes they choose to marry someone who is still enslaved.

However, these marriages are not legally recognized. Instead, they have an informal agreement to be together. These agreements are not very secure because there is always a risk of the slave being sold.

If Harriet and John have children, the children's status will depend on Harriet's. If Harriet is free, the children will be free too.

But if Harriet is enslaved, the children will be born into slavery.

Almost, almost Free

Something important happens in Harriet's life.Her father is granted freedom, and she learns that her mother and the rest of the family were supposed to be set free too.
However, they now have a new owner who refuses to let them go away. He keeps them enslaved.
Harriet discovers that she and her two brothers are going to be sold away.
This news sparks a strong determination in Harriet to plan their escape.

Her husband says it's too dangerous and her two brothers give up.
But Harriet doesn't give up.
She makes a brave decision to escape on her own and find her way to freedom.

The Journey to the Land of Freedom

One dark September night, in 1849, she escapes, leaving behind the only life she knows. She uses the secret Underground Railroad network.

The Underground Railroad is not an actual railroad.It is a secret network of routes and safe houses, that help enslaved people escape from slavery.It is like a hidden pathway to freedom.

Harriet begins her journey on this dangerous and challenging escape route. Her goal is to reach Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is a city in the free northern state of Pennsylvania. There she will be safe from being captured and returned to slavery.

In Philadelphia, many people strongly disagree with slavery and fight for freedom.

Harriet believes that reaching Philadelphia will open doors to new opportunities and support, from like-minded individuals who share her passion.

During Harriet's journey, a kind woman gives her food and water to keep her strong. And a man helps her hide in a wagon, covering her with vegetables. But after some time she has to continue on foot.

In the dark of night, Harriet bravely walks alone, relying on the North Star to guide her north.

During the day, she finds help and secret places to hide, thanks to kind people along the way. Harriet's journey takes her from Maryland, through the dangerous lands of Delaware, and finally to the free state of Pennsylvania.

Finally. Stepping onto free soil fills Harriet with relief and happiness.

In Pennsylvania, a kind woman advises Harriet to change her name to symbolize her freedom. She changes her first name from Araminta to Harriet, after her mom.

From that day forward, she is known as Harriet Tubman.

She settles in Philadelphia and meets people, who want to end slavery and make sure everyone is treated fairly. These people are called abolitionists.

They are called abolitionists because they fight to abolish, (to end) slavery. They work hard to end slavery and treat everyone fairly.

Harriet also finds jobs and support from people who understand what she has been through. She works as a dishwasher and a cook to support herself.

Philadelphia becomes a hopeful place where Harriet can start her life again and make a difference.

Risking It All

Harriet becomes a conductor on the Underground Railroad because she wants to help others escape from slavery.
A conductor is someone who guides and protects people on this journey.
She makes many trips back to the South and helps many enslaved individuals find their way to freedom.
Each trip is filled with risks and challenges. Harriet and those she guides must be careful to avoid slave catchers who want to capture and return them to slavery.
They have to navigate dangerous places, cross rivers, and face bad weather while staying hidden.
Slave owners and authorities desperately want to catch her, because she knows a lot about the Underground Railroad, and helps many people escape.
But Harriet is determined to keep helping others, even with the dangers she faces.
Her bravery is remarkable because there is a big reward of $40,000 offered for capturing her.
Harriet saves many people, including her own family, by the year 1860.
Her reward is not money, but the joy of changing lives, reuniting families, and bringing hope to others. She becomes a hero and an inspiration to people who believe in freedom and equality.

The Battles Begin

In 1861, the Civil War breaks out.
The United States is divided into the Northern states, called the Union, and the Southern states, called the Confederacy. They are fighting over important things, like slavery.
The country is in a big conflict, with battles being fought and people taking sides.
Brave soldiers are fighting to protect what they believe in, and make their country a better place.
In the middle of all this, Harriet is playing an important role. She works as a nurse. She uses her knowledge of herbal medicine to take care of the soldiers and refugees who are hurt and need help.
In 1863, at the age of 43, Harriet becomes a spy.
She uses her knowledge of the land and her secret skills to gather important information for the Union Army.
She goes behind enemy lines, risking her life to find out where the Confederate soldiers are, and how they are moving.
This helps the Union Army make good plans and decisions.
She also helps to free enslaved men who were forced to fight for the Confederacy.

The Confederacy Surrenders

The war comes to an end in the year 1865 when the Confederacy surrenders to the Union.
The Union army wins the battle and brings peace to the country.
With the war over, something very important happens. Slavery, which means owning people and treating them as property, comes to an end.
The Union army helps free the enslaved people they come across. They tell them that they are no longer slaves and that they are free to make their own choices.
It is a happy and hopeful time for those who have waited so long to be free.

A New Hope

After the Civil War, Harriet settles with her family and friends, on the land she owns in the state of New York.
Despite her significant contributions, she does not receive any payment for the important work she did during the war.
Luckily, a kind person named Sarah Bradford helps her. 
Sarah writes a book about Harriet and gives her the money from the book.
In 1869, at the age of 49, she marries Nelson Davis, a brave soldier who fought in the Civil War. And a few years later, they happily welcome Gertie, a little girl they adopt, into their family.
Harriet has a kind heart and always opens her doors to those in need. To support her efforts to help others, she sells the fruits and vegetables she grows, raises pigs, and accepts donations from her friends.
In addition, she travels around the northeastern United States, speaking up for women's rights.
In 1896, at the age of 76, Harriet buys land next to her home, and opens the Harriet Tubman Home for elderly and poor African Americans.

The End of Harriet's Story

On March 10, 1913, Harriet Tubman passes away at the age of 93.
But her story does not end with her death. In fact, she is still alive in our hearts and lessons today. She is a real superhero, who did not wear a cape but was braver than anyone else.
Even after her death, Harriet Tubman's legacy continues to inspire people. Schools and museums are named in her honor, and her remarkable story is celebrated in books, movies, and documentaries.
Her courage and fearless determination remain an inspiration to this day.

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