Harriet Tubman The road to freedom

Catherine Clinton, 1952-

Book - 2004

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BIOGRAPHY/Tubman, Harriet
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New York : Little, Brown 2004.
Main Author
Catherine Clinton, 1952- (-)
1st ed
Physical Description
272 p. : ill
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Preface: Remembering Harriet Tubman
  • 1. Born into Bondage
  • 2. Coming of Age in the Land of Egypt
  • 3. Crossing Over to Freedom
  • 4. In a Free State
  • 5. The Liberty Lines
  • 6. The Moses of Her People
  • 7. Canadian Exile
  • 8. Trouble in Canaan
  • 9. Crossroads at Harpers Ferry
  • 10. Arise, Brethren
  • 11. Bittersweet Victories
  • 12. Final Battles
  • Epilogue: Harriet Tubman's Legacy
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
Review by Booklist Review

Clinton, who has taught history at Harvard and has written 15 books, presents a full portrait of a complicated woman with deep religious convictions, incredible courage, and a passion for freedom. Tubman suffered from seizures and narcolepsy because of a head injury sustained when she tried to help an escaping slave. Her condition might have contributed to the constant visions she reported of fleeing harrowing circumstances and of danger signs that she often heeded to her benefit. Clinton recalls Tubman's vital role in the Underground Railroad; her relationship with other prominent antislavery activists of the time, including Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown, and Sojourner Truth; her espionage and other services provided to the Union during the Civil War; and her later involvement in women's rights issues. Also covered are Tubman's early marriage, her many rescues of enslaved family members, the mysterious abduction of a fair-skinned girl who may have been her own daughter, and her later marriage to a man nearly 20 years her junior. . --Vanessa Bush Copyright 2003 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Clinton has an extraordinary knack of compressing complex history into an informing brief paragraph or a single sentence, making this "first full-scale biography" of Tubman (1825-1913) a revelation. To the task of illuminating the "difficult to document" life of the woman known as "Moses," Clinton brings her deep immersion in Southern history, women's history and African-American history. Succinctly, she sets the stage upon which Tubman moves, offering just enough biographical detail to give less well-known figures vitality (Mary Shadd Cary gets more space than Frederick Douglass; Union general David Hunter more than William Lloyd Garrison) and just enough historical detail to render Tubman's milieu meaningful (unfamiliar Canadian history gets more space than the familiar Fugitive Slave Acts). Although she often posed as an old woman, Tubman was in her 20s when she began her rescues, and in her mid-30s as the Civil War broke out. Clinton is meticulous (without being annoying) in distinguishing the speculative from the known in Tubman's private life. Of far greater consequence is Clinton's revelation of Tubman's public (though usually clandestine) work. In distinguishing between "runaways" and "fugitives," between "conductors" and "abductors... those who ventured into the South to extract slaves" ("all of them white men" before Tubman), in detailing the extent to which she "never wavered in her support" of John Brown, in chronicling her role in the Combahee River raid, Clinton turns sobriquets into meaningful descriptors of a unique person. In her hands, a familiar legend acquires human dimension with no diminution of its majesty and power. (Feb. 2) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Harriet Tubman, philanthropist, abolitionist lecturer, Civil War spy, scout, military commander, and the only African American female known to have repeatedly and successfully piloted others to freedom via the Underground Railroad, has been the subject of scores of 20th-century children's and fictional accounts but has not had a scholarly biography since the 1940s. Now, a trio of new works appears, each drawing upon primary sources not used before, applying modern scholarship drawn from the disciplines of women's and African American history, and offering new interpretations and insights into the life, legend, and legacy of this American hero. Road to Freedom, written by university professor Clinton, a scholar of African American women's history, is a concise and readable biography that vividly updates the story of Tubman's life with context and new interpretations based on the latest historical scholarship. It is the best choice for the casual reader and is recommended for academic or public libraries. Humez's (women's studies, Univ. of Massachusetts, Boston; Gifts of Power) offers the most analytic and interpretive treatment, including a biographical sketch, an examination of Tubman's gifted storytelling, and reprints of her stories, sayings, and documents. This combination makes it ideal for scholarly audiences, though it will please any interested reader. It will serve as an invaluable resource for understanding the real Harriet Tubman and is highly recommended for all collections with interests in Tubman, women's studies, Civil War studies, and African American women. Larson's Bound for the Promised Land is the most detailed study to date of Tubman's life, utilizing a variety of primary sources, including local public records, and providing more information on her liberating forays into the South, her relationships within the black community and with powerful white patrons, and new information about her lifelong epilepsy. Larson is a noted Tubman scholar and consultant for national monuments dedicated to Tubman and the Underground Railroad (UGRR). Recommended for any library with a particular interest in the life of Tubman or the UGRR. [Clinton's book was previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/03; the Underground Railroad Freedom Center will open in Cincinnati in Summer 2004.-Ed.]-Theresa McDevitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Well-written bio of the former slave who became an engineer on the Underground Railroad, a loyal supporter of John Brown, a Civil War nurse and spy, and a fiery advocate for women's suffrage. Less hobbled by academic conventions than Kate Clifford Larson's recent Bound for the Promised Land (p. 1262), this new account of "the Black Moses" trots along at a brisk pace. Clinton (Civil War Stories, 1998, etc.) begins in 1908, when the elderly Tubman appears at the opening in Auburn, New York, of the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged and Indigent, her last great public endeavor. (She died five years later--the year Rosa Parks was born.) The author then takes us back to the Eastern Shore of antebellum Maryland, where Araminta Ross, as Tubman was then called, was born sometime between 1815 and 1825. Like all biographers of slaves, Clinton could consult only a slim file on her subject's early years; documentation is particularly scant in Tubman's case because a courthouse fire in the 1850s destroyed important papers. The author assiduously paints the region's cultural background and helps us imagine Tubman maturing within it, but is nonetheless forced to make frequent use of phrases like "little is known" and such words as "perhaps." Clinton persists, giving more or less authentic accounts of Harriet's childhood, her marriage to John Tubman (who did not flee the South with her), her escape to Canada, her numerous and increasingly dangerous returns to help free relatives and others, her rise to prominence in the Underground Railroad, her service to the Union in the Civil War (it took years to extract a $20 monthly pension from the government for her efforts), her many speaking appearances (she was by all accounts a stunning performer), her struggles to support herself and those who relied on her. A generous biographer, Clinton sometimes accepts too uncritically the many legends that proliferate in the fertile Tubman soil. Still: a clear, concise portrait of "Moses" in her milieux. (8 pp. b&w photos, not seen) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.