What does "Harriet Tubman" represent when we talk of African American history?
Harriet Tubman represents the idea that African Americans (and, in her case, African American women in particular) were willing to fight back against the system of slavery with everything they had. This belies the idea that they were passive victims of slavery who really did not care enough to try to resist.
Tubman was born into slavery in Maryland in 1820. In 1849, she escaped to the North. However, this was not her main accomplishment. It was after this that she really embarked upon what became her life’s work. She went back to the South at least 19 times to help people who were still slaves to escape. In doing so, she earned the nickname “Moses” for being a person who was leading her people out of slavery. She became notorious enough in the South that a $40,000 reward was offered for her capture.
When the Civil War broke out, Tubman went to work for the Union army. She worked as a nurse and a cook, but then became a guide and a spy as well. She survived the war and lived until 1913.
Thus, Harriet Tubman is a symbol of the will of the African American people to resist slavery.