Hidden cameras, secret messages, and spies in trench coats. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has some of that — but it also has an important job. That U.S. government group’s mission is to collect info and keep the country safe. Last month, the CIA honored a famous spy from history. Officials unveiled a bronze statue of Harriet Tubman!
Harriet Tubman was born enslaved in Dorchester County, Maryland, in the early 1820s. At the time, many Black people in the United States were forced to work in harsh conditions without pay. This was called slavery.
Tubman fought for freedom throughout her life. She escaped from slavery and later risked her life to help others do the same. Tubman was one of the brave of the Underground Railroad. That was a secret network of places and people in the United States in the 1800s. The Underground Railroad helped people escape from slavery in the South. It may have saved 100,000 people during that time. In total, Tubman herself likely rescued more than 300 people!
Tubman once said, “I was a conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”
Tubman was more than an , however. She also served as a nurse, helping the northern Union army during the Civil War (1861-1865). Many Southern states fought to keep slavery legal during that conflict. Tubman was a spy and a scout. She gathered key information (or “intelligence”) for the Union army. The skills she learned from her time on the Underground Railroad helped Tubman succeed. She spies and scouted waterways for enemies.
Tubman made history as the first woman to plan and lead a U.S. Army during the war. In South Carolina, Tubman helped guide 150 African American Union soldiers in the Combahee River Raid. Tubman had learned of the locations of Confederate torpedoes along the Combahee River. This info helped the Union soldiers steer their boats away from danger. The troops were able to sail up the river safely, raiding Confederate areas and freeing more than 750 enslaved people along the way.
Tubman’s new bronze statue stands tall at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. It is a copy of another Tubman sculpture that sits in front of the New York State Equal Rights Heritage Center in Auburn, New York. The artist, Brian Hanlon, allowed the CIA to copy his work. The statue shows Tubman holding a lantern out in front of her, lighting the path to freedom.
Updated October 7, 2022, 5:03 P.M. (ET)
By Alexa Tirapelli