Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom
by Catherine Clinton
Who was Harriet Tubman? To John Brown, the leader of the Harpers Ferry slave uprising, she was General Tubman. For those slaves whom she led north to freedom, she was Moses. To the slavers who hunted her down, she was a thief and a trickster. To abolitionists she was a prophet. As Catherine Clinton shows in this riveting biography, Harriet Tubman was, above all, a singular and complex woman, defeating simple categories. Illiterate but deeply religious, Harriet Tubman was raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in the 1820s, not far from where Frederick Douglass was born. As an adolescent, she incurred a severe head injury when she stepped between a lead weight thrown by an irate master and the slave it was meant for. She recovered but suffered from visions and debilitating episodes for the rest of her life. While still in her early twenties she left her family and her husband, a free black, to make the journey north alone. Yet within a year of her arrival in Philadelphia, she found herself drawn back south, first to save family members slated for the auction block, then others. Soon she became one of the most infamous enemies of slaveholders. She established herself as the first and only woman, the only black, and one of the few fugitive slaves to work as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. In the decade leading up to the Civil War, Tubman made over a dozen trips south in raids that were so brazen and so successful that a steep price was offered as a bounty on her head. When the Civil War broke out, she became the only woman to officially lead men into battle, acting as a scout and a spy while serving with the Union Army in South Carolina. Long overdue, Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom is the first major biography of this pivotal character in American history, written by an acclaimed historian of the antebellum and Civil War eras. With impeccable scholarship drawing on newly available sources and research into the daily lives of the slaves in the border states, Catherine Clinton brings Harriet Tubman to life as one of the most important and enduring figures in American history.
Friday, March 30, 2012
Monday, March 26, 2012
Fictionalized biographies are troubling to readers who want to know at all times what’s fact and what’s invention. Lowry signals, unobtrusively but clearly, when she is gliding into the imagined phases of her narrative. Particularly in the first half of the book, this method produces vivid scenes of Tubman’s life as she (might well have) lived it.
Harriet Tubman was born Araminta Ross around 1822, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She was the property of Edward Brodess, an unprosperous farmer who staved off bankruptcy by hiring out or selling his slaves. First hired out at the age of 6, Minty, as she was known, was beaten for poor performance of housework she’d never been taught to do. Her hire-masters tried using her to check muskrat traps, and kept her wading through cold water during a bout of measles until she collapsed. Still, she preferred outdoor labor. In her early 20s, she made a deal with one of her hire-masters, Brodess’s stepbrother A. C. Thompson, which permitted her to find her own jobs and keep whatever earnings were left after both Thompson and Brodess had satisfied their claims.
When Tubman was 13, her skull was fractured by a two-pound lead weight launched in a dispute between an overseer and another slave. Brodess promptly tried to sell his damaged property, but found no takers. Minty recovered but soon began having visions and conversations with God. She had witnessed the Leonid meteor shower of 1833, a revelation of falling stars that many thought portended a great upheaval in the order of things. In later life, Tubman would claim she had always known how to follow the North Star, which led to freedom.
On the non-astral plane, she also learned, much later in life, that a term in Brodess’s great-grandfather’s will should have set her mother, and her mother’s children, free at age 45. As it happened, she did not have to wait that long. At 26, when she heard that Brodess was trying to sell her again, she asked God to kill him. He died about a week later. His widow was still more desperate to raise money by selling slaves. Minty, now married to John Tubman, tried to escape with three of her brothers in September 1849, but they lost their nerve. A few days later she went alone. After crossing to freedom she took her mother’s name, Harriet.
A year later, Harriet returned to rescue family members who had been put up for sale. Slaves who were not her relatives asked her to help them escape too. The recent passage of the Fugitive Slave Act meant that escapees could be recaptured even in the North. The Underground Railroad ramped up in response, now conveying fugitives all the way to Canada.
Relying on her visions, her sixth sense for danger and her colloquies with God, Harriet ran extraordinary risks in her numerous returns to slave territory, once (in an episode rendered well by Lowry) brushing elbows with her former master A. C. Thompson. Slaves began calling her Moses, after her habit of singing “Go Down Moses” to discreetly announce her presence. John Brown, with his more martial bent, called her “General Tubman.”
By the outbreak of the Civil War, Tubman had gotten most of her family north, and become a symbol of the possibility of freedom to a great many more. Though she would become a star on the abolitionist lecture circuit, she always had to struggle to finance her expeditions and to support the growing circle of family and friends she had helped establish in Canada and upstate New York. Though she served in the United States Army as a scout and spy, the government would repeatedly deny her a pension. In 1865 she was severely beaten for refusing to leave a whites-only car on a train from Philadelphia to New York. After a slow recovery, she returned to her large dependent household, begging for food when she couldn’t find work. Under these circumstances, in 1868, she began collaborating with Sarah Bradford in the marketing of her legend.
Lowry, a white Southerner, makes painfully sure we know she knows that slavery was a Bad Thing. The hardships Harriet Tubman suffered in the North come through just as clearly through uncommented description. Though she insists her work is not scholarly, Lowry’s dramatic retelling seems thoroughly researched, and she succeeds in animating the icon that Tubman helped to make of herself. “I am as proud of being a black woman,” she told the conductor of the train where she was beaten, “as you are of being white.” That pride shines through in the marvelous photographs of Tubman that illustrate the book — images that, amplifying Lowry’s words, show forth her indomitable desire to be herself in freedom.
Monday, March 19, 2012
by Zvi Bodie, Alex Kane, Alan Marcus
Bodie, Kane, and Marcus' INVESTMENTS is the leading textbook for the graduate/MBA investments market. It is recognized as the best blend of practical and theoretical coverage, while maintaining an appropriate rigor and clear writing style. Its unifying theme is that security markets are nearly efficient, meaning that most securities are usually priced appropriately given their risk and return attributes. The text places greater emphasis on asset allocation, and offers a much broader and deeper treatment of futures, options, and other derivative security markets than most investment texts.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
by Judith Bentley
Harriet Tubman, Moses of Her People is the biography of one of America’s greatest women. Harriet Tubman is most famous for her work escorting slaves north on the Underground Railroad, work that earned her the name Moses. Not only an abolitionist, she also worked as a spy and a nurse for the Union army during the Civil War and then became involved in the women’s suffrage movement after the war. She risked her life and safety to bring her family and friends north, never losing a passenger from her “train.”