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Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  333 ratings  ·  59 reviews
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 ...more
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Published February 2nd 2004 by Little, Brown and Company
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P.J. Sullivan
It is not easy to find reliable information about nineteenth century slaves. Fortunately, Harriet Tubman lived long enough to be questioned by biographers. Still, gaps remain. Pieces of the puzzle are missing. Catherine Clinton has uncovered about all that can be known for sure about this American hero. She supplements the facts with speculations and details about the history of slavery. Don’t expect wall-to-wall coverage of Harriet Tubman here. There are lots of digressions, some of them length ...more
I read this book because I am going to hear the author in person at The Chautauqua Institute here this summer 2013. I am astounded by Harriet's story and how little Americans know about her and her accomplishments. The Underground Railroad is an amazing story in itself and how it changed the lives of so many. It is not easily documented because keeping records was such a dangerous practice for all. Harriet herself was illiterate so her story too is not easily documented either. In spite of that, ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

At long last Harriet Tubman, the subject of school myth and lore, has a full-fledged biography. Critics agree that Clinton does a remarkable job researching the life of a woman who left few traces; not only was she born into slavery, but she was also illiterate, and the Underground Railroad left no written records. Despite these obstacles, Clinton delves into university archives to paint a detailed portrait of Tubman's life--from her marriage, militant politics, and role in the Underground Railr

David Schwan
This book is centered around Harriet Tubman's years as a conductor on the underground railroad (UGRR) and her role as a nurse/spy/freer of slaves during the US civil war. Harriet Tubman was an important person in the struggle against slavery and the struggle for the rights of Black Americans. She was well connected with the leaders of the abolition movement.

One interesting point raised by the book is how much of a lightning rod Harriet Tubman is for conservatives. There are and continue to be a
Kris Wilson
This book provided an interesting historical view of a defining period in US history through the life of Harriet Tubman. I found the praise for Tubman to be a little over the top, but the historical accounts where fascinating. Clinton's description of black slave life in America does a good job of capturing the inhumanity of slavery. The accounts of families being torn apart as slaves are sold or traded drive home how little control slaves had over their own destinies save fleeing north. Althoug ...more
Ismael Galvan
The historical perspective of oppressed people is immensely valuable. It presents a truth that humiliates and exposes the abusive power structure, dispels lies both old and new, and helps us understand current oppressors.

I started this book because I wanted to know about Harriet Tubman, and was delighted that its coverage expanded much further. Catherine Clinton's research presents a clearer view of the United States during slavery. It was a chaotic era that is difficult to understand due to lac
I read this biography in order to write a paper for a class I am taking. I selected this particular biography because there was a goodly amount of critical acclaim for the research conducted by the author. The focus of the paper is leadership and emotional intelligence and I am pleased to say I found ample information in the biography for that purpose. Additionally, in order to tie together the various activities that comprise Tubman's legacy, the author provides a decent level of detail regardi ...more
Dana Whitney
Johnny D
I know I'm supposed to review the book here, but I was deeply impressed with Harriet Tubman as a person — or at least the Harriet Tubman that Catherine Clinton portrays here. I had never heard of the following incident:

"Tubman herself fell victim to the backlash, even as she was returning home a war hero. On the train heading north to Auburn from Virginia, she was roughed up while passing through New Jersey. The conductor decided that Harriet’s papers must have been forged or illegally appropria
I learned a lot about Harriet Tubman who was really just a name to me before this book. Not only did she lead hundreds of slaves to freedom in Canada through the Underground Railroad before the Civil War, but she sacrificed greatly during the civil war and was a scout, spy, nurse, teacher, and friend to many "contraband" slaves. She was an impressive lady and worked to make other people's lives better throughout her life and she lived a long life. Her struggles to get reimbursed for her civil wa ...more
From p. 183-184,
“[Sojourner] Truth doubtless knew of [Harriet] Tubman’s work among the soldiers in the Carolinas, and her exploits before and during the war.. Equally, Tubman would have been curious about Truth, the compelling speaker whose lectures always opened with her singing spirituals. The article on Tubman in “The Commonwealth” in July 1863 suggested that “her religious experiences are as startling as those of Sojourner Truth.” (39. “The Commonwealth,” Boston, July 10, 1863) Thus it was
I'm really interested in Harriet Tubman and enjoyed learning about her in this book. However, it was a bit too dry for me--too many dates and names without a connection. It seemed like I would read something in one chapter and then read it again, almost the same way, in another chapter. I wish it had been a little more fluid and fluent in storyline. It could be that since there is so little known about her due to records being destroyed that it is difficult to keep the information connected and ...more
K.P.B. Stevens
Tubman herself was an impressive, fascinating, and exciting woman. Catherine Clinton's book doesn't really do her justice. Part of Clinton's problem is the paucity of documentary evidence, which causes her to make the same points several times in an attempt to fill-out the book. At times she manages to build a portrait of slavery by expanding her narrative beyond the confines of Tubman's life. She's very interesting when she talks about the devastating effects of slavery itself, and she has nice ...more
Elizabeth Wright Korytkowski
very well written nonfiction, with incredible detail. Glad that I read this, as I feel so much more knowledgeable about her life and achievements.
I thought this would be mildly interesting, because of the Canadian connection (Tubman brought her family to Upper Canada, and lived in St. Catharines for a time, though she returned fairly quickly to New York State), but it turned out to be more than that. Not having had an American upbringing, I had only the haziest notion of what life was like in pre-Civil War and Civil War times. And although I had seen Tubman's name here and there, I had no notion of what a downright hero she really was. Bo ...more
Best book I've read in years.
I was amazed at how much there was to learn about Harriet Tubman. I knew about her brave work in helping slaves to escape to freedom. I found especially interesting her work as a nurse, community organizer, strategist, and spy at Port Royal, South Carolina, during the war and her tireless efforts after the war for the rest of her life. I was surprised at the endless government red tape involved in ever getting a pension for her after all her work for the Union.
Mar 24, 2008 Marsha rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Harriet Tubman was a woman I look up to. My respect for her grew after reading this book. She was the "Moses" of her people and helped more than 300 slaves escape from bondage. She was a nurse and a spy during the Civil War. She made a home for those who could find no other place. All of these accomplishments made by a woman not much taller than five foot. This book is for anyone who needs a reason to be thankful for the freedom they have.
Very informative book. The author has obviously researched her subject thoroughly, and supplements Harriet Tubman's story with historical information about the culture and time period in which Tubman lived.
Just A. Bean
Pretty solid account of Tubman's life, though as facts were somewhat thin on the ground, the author leaned hard on context. I feel as though Clinton could have used more examples of people in similar circumstances, and engaged in less speculation. Overall, I leaned a lot, but I had to wade though a fair bit of sentences that went like, "Harriet must have felt xyz..." which, no, you don't know that.
How can anyone make the story of Tubman anything less than fascinating? Clinton loves to use big, gnarly, unnecessary words... I have no problems with long or infrequently used words when they have their place... Oh egads... She circles around the historical figures and stories without ever concisely coming to the point... I felt like I was reading a college dissertation paper. Frustrating read.
May 12, 2008 MichelleMarie rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: civil war historians, abolitionists
Recommended to MichelleMarie by: Borders sale box
This was definately worth reading, and though the subject matter interesting I didn't care for the writer's style.
Tubman is always remembered for her assistance to helping slaves escape but I learned much more about her efforts during the war as a nurse, scout and spy.
Definately an amazing woman that you should read more about..maybe not this particular piece.
Joshunda Sanders
I was captivated by this book from beginning to end, in part because I learned so much about Harriet Tubman that I never knew, from her first marriage to John Tubman to her later years when she took in indigent children and disabled adults. Any student of history will love it - it's a quick read and such an enthralling piece of work.
This was a book club selection. It was fine. I liked the fact that it covered her whole life and not just her involvement with the Underground Railroad. Clinton also did a nice job of framing Tubman's life in context. It was a fine example of scholarly work written for a more popular audience, but I wasn't really enthralled by it.
Not bad. But took too many pages to basically say that no historical record of Harriet Tubman exists because at the time to write down anything about your knowledge of or participation in the Underground Railroad was to leave evidence of your crimes against the government.
Chandra Boulden
What a fascinating woman! Talk about a true leader, to lead so many people to freedom- I think over 300 if I remember correctly. And to start a poor house. I don't know that she ever kept anything just to herself, what a giving and generous soul.
Incredibly gutsy woman who believed she had a direct connection to God. She listened to His messages and acted upon them and saved so many people. Active in Civil War. Government made her then fight for 30 years to collect any kind of pension. Pathetic...
Harriet Tubman earned her place in the American history. She showed courage, boldness, and determination. She relied on her spiritual path to guide her to freedom, and went back under great peril to deliver her people from bondage. She remains my hero.
I might have liked this book better had it not pretended to be a biography of Harriet Tubman. I find it hard to consider a book a "biography" when it routinely goes 10 or 15 pages without mentioning the ostensible subject of the book.
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Professor of history at Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Specializes in American history, African-American history, the Civil War, and women's history. Previously taught at Brandeis and Harvard universities. Born in 1952, grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. Studied sociology and history at Harvard, earned a master's degree from Sussex and a doctorate from Princeton.
More about Catherine Clinton...
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