Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery in the South to become a leading abolitionist before the American Civil War. Tubman successfully escaped slavery in 1849. Yet she returned many times to rescue both family members and non-relatives from the plantation system. She led hundreds to freedom in the North as the most famous "conductor" on the Underground Railroad. Harriet Tubman, widely known and well-respected while she was alive, became an American icon in the years after she died.