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Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom

3.81  ·  Rating Details  ·  407 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
Celebrated for her courageous exploits as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman has entered history as one of nineteenth-century America's most enduring and important figures. But just who was this remarkable woman? To John Brown, leader of the Harpers Ferry slave uprising, she was General Tubman. For the many slaves she led north to freedom, she was Mose ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 5th 2005 by Back Bay Books (first published February 2nd 2004)
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Jul 08, 2015 Bythedeed rated it really liked it
I've been reading a fair amount about slavery, slave resistance and abolitionism in the midwest lately, and so enjoyed a break from that to read about its east coast counterpart.

Since this is the first large text I've ever read about Harriet Tubman (and the first of any sort since grade school), it's hard for me to tell where this biography of hers lies in terms of others or her life itself.

One of the main impressions I was left with from this book was that of Harriet Tubman's incredibly strengt
Surprisingly influential in my understanding of feminism, activism, and intersectionality: inspired by Tubman's life's work and the ways selected pieces have been elevated or eliminated from the historical narrative. Couple with Bell Hooks and Michelle Alexander writing about Radical Love for a complete nourishing meal.

This is a repost of a reflection I wrote in my zine, Ladders & Hips, back in 2008.


Take the example of Harriett Tubman. Tubman has been mythologized by white biographers
Tony Hynes
Dec 24, 2015 Tony Hynes rated it really liked it
What people sometimes forget is that Harriet Tubman held a gun to the head of slaves who wanted to stop, to quit, to return to their masters or lay stranded in the forest. This book is a reminder of that harsh woman, of the enduring person who would not take no for an answer.
Fabianne Furman
Jan 09, 2016 Fabianne Furman rated it it was amazing
When I heard that Harriet Tubman is a possible candidate for the new $10 bill, I realized that I knew very little about her, and decided to find an adequate biography. Oddly, most Tubman biographies are written for children or adolescents, but I tracked down Catherine Clinton's academic, adult biography. It is thorough and detailed, but never dull. Besides learning incredible facts about Tubman's life and heroism, I also gained considerable knowledge about the civil war, and the incredible (thou ...more
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
Dawn Lennon
Nov 24, 2015 Dawn Lennon rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
We live in a troubled world where there is enormous strife, fear, dislocation, uncertainty, and the specters of death and destruction, often when unexpected. Harriet Tubman lived a life under similar circumstances, but in the 1800's, as a black slave, and a woman. She could have given in to her circumstances, after all she was illiterate, small in height, and very quiet. But instead she became a hero (not a heroine) but a hero through her strength, faith, determination, and pure courage. Harriet ...more
Jul 06, 2013 Jean rated it liked it
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
Feb 17, 2013 David Schwan rated it liked it
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
Dec 26, 2014 Kris Wilson rated it really liked it
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
Jul 28, 2014 Ismael Galvan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Heather Hyde
Sep 30, 2015 Heather Hyde rated it liked it
A lot of hear say in this overly long book and considering that Harriet was photographed well into the early 1900s I'm surprised that there is so much supposition as to a lot of the actual occurrences of various events, that aside, it is informative if not a little long winded.
Jamie Casey
Nov 05, 2015 Jamie Casey rated it really liked it
This was an awesome autobiography of Harriet Tubman. I had quite a few facts wrong remembered from school as a child. I had no idea she was involved in the Civil War at all let alone such a big part of it. What a courageous woman. Seems to me someone ought to write a script for a movie on her. She did so many brave things and did them well! What woman do you know that can cut lumber and haul it? And out smart scores of people after her head! My fascination of Harriet began during a beach trip ru ...more
Mar 27, 2013 Marin rated it it was ok
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.
Ph. D.
Jan 31, 2016 Ph. D. rated it liked it
I had no idea that Harriet Tubman was such a bad-ass. An escaped slave, she returned to the South again and again to guide fugitive slaves along the Underground Railroad to freedom, risking her own freedom in the process. Not only that, once the war started, she led successful commando raids for the US Army in the best tradition of Navy SEALS and Geronimo. The only frustration is that because of the need for secrecy on the UGRR, little is actually known about the specifics of Tubman's heroics. T ...more
Sep 14, 2014 firecracker2007 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 22, 2010 Dana Whitney rated it it was amazing
Laura Crockett
Jul 04, 2015 Laura Crockett rated it it was amazing
Wow, just wow. If you are interested in the story of America, this is one of the books that needs to be in your library. Because this book travels beyond Mrs. Tubman's life to give us a broad view of slavery, the Civil War and the aftermath of the relations of African and European Americans after the Civil War.

This book is well researched and well written because Carolyn Clinton is a professor of history. She give us, in my small experience with American history, an honest view of the people and
Johnny D
Mar 08, 2014 Johnny D rated it really liked it
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
Jan 07, 2013 Elizabeth rated it liked it
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
Jan 25, 2016 Tim rated it liked it
Tubman is a difficult subject for a biography because so little of her history was ever written down. She was illiterate, and as a conductor in the underground railroad lived a secretive life, and so there i s little written documentation of the most important parts of her life. Only later in her life (after emancipation) did she start to become more well known in the eyes of people who might be interested in telling her story. Anyways, the writing is fine, but the star rating is a reflection of ...more
Nov 13, 2015 Angela rated it really liked it
"If you are tired, keep going; if you are scared, keep going; if you are hungry, keep going; if you want to taste freedom, keep going. "
I have a new appreciation for the many sacrifices Harriet Tubman made for so many. She viewed herself as an instrument in God's hands. What a great example to all of us. The author did a wonderful job with this book.
Feb 25, 2009 Tiffany rated it liked it
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
Nov 02, 2011 K.P.B. Stevens rated it liked it
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
Charles B
Jul 25, 2015 Charles B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this because Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery in my adopted state of Maryland. This book demonstrates the her courage, determination, and disappointment with emancipation.
Feb 28, 2014 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
very well written nonfiction, with incredible detail. Glad that I read this, as I feel so much more knowledgeable about her life and achievements.
Oct 09, 2009 Surreysmum rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, 2009, passed-on
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
Susan Reed
Oct 15, 2015 Susan Reed rated it liked it
good, sometimes very historical, good story
Jun 27, 2014 ReadingBear rated it it was amazing
Best book I've read in years.
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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.
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