Monday, July 28, 2008

In Their Own Words: Harriet Tubman

by George Sullivan

This book is part of a series for children that uses primary sources when possible. Although Harriet Tubman didn't leave writing of her own behind, two biographies published during her lifetime contain many quotations. They are:

Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman (1869) and
Harriet: The Moses of her People (1886)

by Sarah Bradford, a schoolteacher who was Harriet's close friend.

Going back over this book with Ziad and Maya, I realize that I didn't retain all that much of what I read. As I glance through it the second time, though, I remember how I was struck by a few things: Harriet's early life, not in the deep south, but Maryland, considered to be a less hellish place for slaves than the Deep South, is nonetheless terrible to read about. After her first escape, the Fugitive Slave laws required her to conduct all other escaping slaves all the way to Canada, where they could not be apprehended and sent back into slavery. Harriet was also connected with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, just as the abolitionist movement became intertwined with the struggle for women's suffrage.

I've heard that children's books are a good way to become informed about subjects, since they tend to be concise in their presentation of information. This book certainly fills the bill in that regard, while being interesting and well-written to boot. I think I'll read it again and see if I can remember more this time.

Maya says:

I thought that all slaves had to be in slavery, but I learned that the slave master's will could free them and some slaves could be freed. I learned that because John Tubman, who Harriet married, was a freed slave. Harriet went to a lawyer who read the will of her mother's first owner. Harriet's mother should have been freed she turned 45, but instead she had been traded to another master. Now it was too late, and no one would listen to Harriet's claim, even though Harriet felt that legally she should be free.

Harriet told her husband that she wanted to escape, but he told her that he would tell on her if she tried. Then Harriet tried to escape with her brothers, but they got scared and turned back. Finally she escaped by herself. She became part of the Underground Railroad and helped other slaves escape. Her master offered a reward for her return.

One time she was waiting for a train and some people thought they recognized her. When she heard them talking, she opened a book and stared at it like she was read, and the people said she couldn't have been who they thought she was because slave couldn't read. I thought that was clever of her, because the really couldn't read, even after she was free.

During the Civil War, she worked in a hospital and also served as a spy. I really admire her and think that she was a great person.

Ziad says:

Harriet Tubman was slave who ran away and became a conductor on the Underground Railroad. She conducted more people to freedom than anybody else. She knew John Brown, the white man who attacked a warehouse full of weapons and tried to free slaves, but failed. She had a dream about him being killed before he was hanged. Harriet was impressed because John Brown died for slaves when he could have done nothing about it.

She worked as a spy and nurse during the Civil War. AFter the Union won, when she tried to take a train, the conductor put her in the box car with the animals. She felt that the Union hadn't really won, if people still treated black people so badly.

Harriet Tubman was very brave.

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Blogger Lesley said...

Sounds like a great book for my two. They both need something new to focus on. Right now they are both consumed with the "How did we get here?" question. And I don't mean babies. I mean the big "How did WE ALL get here?"

7:49 PM  
Blogger zelda said...

Great narrations! I'm beyond impressed.

11:19 AM  

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