Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero

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Harriet Tubman is one of the giants of American history—a fearless visionary who led scores of her fellow slaves to freedom and battled courageously behind enemy lines during the Civil War. And yet in the nine decades since her death, next to nothing has been written about this extraordinary woman aside from juvenile biographies. The truth about Harriet Tubman has become lost inside a legend woven of racial and gender stereotypes. Now at last, in this long-overdue biography, historian Kate Clifford Larson gives Harriet Tubman the powerful, intimate, meticulously detailed life she deserves.

Drawing from a trove of new documents and sources as well extensive genealogical research, Larson reveals Tubman as a complex woman— brilliant, shrewd, deeply religious, and passionate in her pursuit of freedom. The descendant of the vibrant, matrilineal Asanti people of the West African Gold Coast, Tubman was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland but refused to spend her life in bondage. While still a young woman she embarked on a perilous journey of self-liberation—and then, having won her own freedom, she returned again and again to liberate family and friends, tapping into the Underground Railroad.

Yet despite her success, her celebrity, her close ties with Northern politicians and abolitionists, Tubman suffered crushing physical pain and emotional setbacks. Stripping away myths and misconceptions, Larson presents stunning new details about Tubman’s accomplishments, personal life, and influence, including her relationship with Frederick Douglass, her involvement with John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, and revelations about a young woman who may have been Tubman’s daughter. Here too are Tubman’s twilight years after the war, when she worked for women’s rights and in support of her fellow blacks, and when racist politicians and suffragists marginalized her contribution.

Harriet Tubman, her life and her work, remain an inspiration to all who value freedom. Now, thanks to Larson’s breathtaking biography, we can finally appreciate Tubman as a complete human being—an American hero, yes, but also a woman who loved, suffered, and sacrificed. Bound for the Promised Land is a magnificent work of biography, history, and truth telling.
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About the author

Kate Clifford Larson has spent years researching the life and times of Harriet Tubman. She earned her doctorate at the history department of the University of New Hampshire. A graduate of Simmons College and Northeastern University, Larson has won numerous academic awards and fellowships in support of her work. This is her first book. She lives in Winchester, Massachusetts.
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Additional Information

Publisher
One World
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Published on
Feb 19, 2009
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Pages
432
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ISBN
9780307514769
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Cultural, Ethnic & Regional / African American & Black
Biography & Autobiography / Women
History / Social History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Harriet Tubman’s name is known world-wide and her exploits as a self-liberated Underground Railroad heroine are celebrated in children’s literature, film, and history books, yet no major biography of Tubman has appeared since 1943. Jean M. Humez’s comprehensive Harriet Tubman is both an important biographical overview based on extensive new research and a complete collection of the stories Tubman told about her life—a virtual autobiography culled by Humez from rare early publications and manuscript sources. This book will become a landmark resource for scholars, historians, and general readers interested in slavery, the Underground Railroad, the Civil War, and African American women.
Born in slavery in Maryland in or around 1820, Tubman drew upon deep spiritual resources and covert antislavery networks when she escaped to the north in 1849. Vowing to liberate her entire family, she made repeated trips south during the 1850s and successfully guided dozens of fugitives to freedom. During the Civil War she was recruited to act as spy and scout with the Union Army. After the war she settled in Auburn, New York, where she worked to support an extended family and in her later years founded a home for the indigent aged. Celebrated by her primarily white antislavery associates in a variety of private and public documents from the 1850s through the 1870s, she was rediscovered as a race heroine by woman suffragists and the African American women’s club movement in the early twentieth century. Her story was used as a key symbolic resource in education, institutional fundraising, and debates about the meaning of "race" throughout the twentieth century.
Humez includes an extended discussion of Tubman’s work as a public performer of her own life history during the nearly sixty years she lived in the north. Drawing upon historiographical and literary discussion of the complex hybrid authorship of slave narrative literature, Humez analyzes the interactive dynamic between Tubman and her interviewers. Humez illustrates how Tubman, though unable to write, made major unrecognized contributions to the shaping of her own heroic myth by early biographers like Sarah Bradford. Selections of key documents illustrate how Tubman appeared to her contemporaries, and a comprehensive list of primary sources represents an important resource for scholars.
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The mother of Emmett Till recounts the story of her life, her son’s tragic death, and the dawn of the civil rights movement—with a foreword by the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

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Praise for Death of Innocence

“A testament to the power of the indestructible human spirit [that] speaks as eloquently as the diary of Anne Frank.”—The Washington Post Book World

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Robert F. Kennedy Book Award Special Recognition • BlackBoard Nonfiction Book of the Year
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.
One of People’s Top Ten Books of 2015

"[Larson] succeeds in providing a well-rounded portrait of a woman who, until now, has never been viewed in full."—Boston Globe

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An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States
 
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