ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
After freeing herself from slavery, Harriet Tubman returned to Maryland
to rescue other members of her family. In all she is believed to have
conducted over 100 persons to freedom in the North.
Books on Harriet Tubman
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HARRIET TUBMAN REMEMBRANCE DAY
Harriet Tubman Remembrance Day was passed by the Maryland General Assembly in March 2000.
Harriet Tubman’s life was a monument to courage and determination that continues to stand out in American history. Born into slavery in Maryland, Harriet Tubman freed herself, and played a major role in freeing the remaining millions of enslaved blacks. After the Civil War, she joined her family in Auburn, NY, where she founded the Harriet Tubman Home. Harriet Tubman’s Life in Slavery
Harriet Ross was born into slavery in 1822? in Dorchester County, Maryland. Given the names of her two parents, both held in slavery, she was of purely African ancestry. She was raised under harsh conditions, and subjected to whippings even as a small child. At the age of 12 she was seriously injured by a blow to the head, inflicted by a white overseer for refusing to assist in tying up a man who had attempted escape. In 1844, at the age of 25, she married John Tubman, a free African American. Five years later, (1849) fearing she would be sold South, she made her escape. Her Escape to Freedom in Canada
Tubman was given a piece of paper by a white neighbor with two names, and told how to find the first house on her path to freedom. At the first house she was put into a wagon, covered with a sack, and driven to her next destination. Following the route to Pennsylvania, she initially settled in Philadelphia, where she met William Still, the Philadelphia Stationmaster on the Underground Railroad. With the assistance of Still, and other members of the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society, she learned about the workings of the UGRR. In 1850, she returned to Maryland and successfully rescued her niece from the auction block. In 1851 she began relocating members of her family to St. Catharines, (Ontario) Canada West. North Street in St. Catharines remained her base of operations until 1857. While there she worked at various activities to save to finance her activities as a Conductor on the UGRR, and attended the Salem Chapel BME Church on Geneva Street. Her Role in the Underground Railroad After freeing herself from slavery, Harriet Tubman returned to Maryland to rescue other members of her family. In all she is believed to have conducted over 100 persons to freedom in the North. The tales of her exploits reveal her highly spiritual nature, as well as a grim determination to protect her charges and those who aided them. She always expressed confidence that God would aid her efforts, and threatened to shoot any of her charges who thought to turn back. When William Still published The Underground Railroad in 1871, he included a description of Harriet Tubman and her work. The section of Still’s book captioned below begins with a letter from Thomas Garrett, the Stationmaster of Wilmington, Delaware. Wilmington and Philadelphia were on the major route followed by Tubman, and by hundreds of others who escaped from slavery in Maryland. For this reason, Still was in a position to speak from his own firsthand knowledge of Tubman’s work: Harriet Tubman has long been associated with her extraordinary work with abolitionist causes and as the Underground Railroad’s most famous conductor. Her heroic efforts in personally leading persons out of slavery to freedom in the North defined her as the “Moses of her People.” After the Civil War, she continued her humanitarian activities to aid the poor and aged, and to establish schools for freed blacks in the South. This house now serves as a home for the resident manager of the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged. With the help of the AME Zion Church, Tubman established the Home for the Aged, located at 180 South Street, in 1908 on the property that she had purchased at public auction from William H. Seward. Tubman spent the last few years of her life at this house and died there on March 10, 1913 at the age of 93. Harriet Tubman played a significant role in the formation and progress of the Thompson Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church. Harriet Tubman was laid to rest with military honors at Fort Hill Cemetery Auburn New York, just under 50 miles from where Frederick Douglass, another great Marylander is buried.
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By Jean McMahon Humez
Conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, Harriet Tubman famously boasted that she could say what most conductors couldn’t: “I never run my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.” The quote fits with the popular image of Tubman as the courageous, inspired “Moses of Her People,” yet Humez, a professor of women’s studies and scholar of African-American spiritual autobiography, argues that the edifice of Tubman iconography has concealed the woman herself. Humez has assembled a trove of primary source documents-letters, diaries, memorials, speeches, articles, meeting minutes and testimonies-that create a more intimate portrait of Tubman. But instead of interpreting the rich materials she has collected, Humez offers a biography of Tubman and then includes a scholarly article asserting that since Tubman was illiterate, and her stories and correspondence have been recorded by others, “such texts cannot be read at face value” and must be understood to have undergone at least minimal changes from the author’s original statements.
Although Humez’s prose lacks narrative flair, she aptly places Tubman in a broad historical context, documenting her relations to John Brown, Sojourner Truth, Abraham Lincoln, Frederic Douglass, Northern abolitionists and the nascent women’s movement. The book is at its best in the last two primary-source sections. Through Tubman’s documented words and the observations of others, “Aunt Harriet” emerges as an even more charismatic figure than American history has allowed: profoundly spiritual, irreverent, witty, wise, impoverished and ultimately neglected by the Union she defended. Publishers Weekly “I see Harriet Tubman: The Life and the Life Stories as the most important book on Tubman in the last fifty years.”William L. Andrews “Imagine Harriet Tubman, whose spirit is so large, without the means to tell her story as autobiography in the usual sense. She sings or prays or speaks in public, but what about the silent articulation of pain and struggle that becomes available through this source. . . . In bringing together the many voices that serve as Tubman’s surrogate, Humez does something for Tubman that Tubman was never in a position to do for herself.”Joanne Braxton, College of William and Mary “Humez has compiled what she calls Tubman’s “core stories,” accounts of her life Tubman told regularly in her public appearances, and descriptions written by those who interacted with her. Presented as a chronology of her life, these materials paint a far more vivid portrait than any biographer’s account. The reader gains not just glimpses of Tubman, but sees how she confounded even those admirers who still could not comprehend a black woman who behaved like the bravest of men. Read with the care Humez’s introduction to the documentary section of her book prescribes, the collection of Tubman sources she has assembled provide the basis for a far fuller and more complex portrait than has hitherto been available”New York Times Book Review
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Other Books on Tubman
Kate Larson. Bound For The Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero. George Sullivan. In Their Own Words: Harriet Tubman. Kate McMullan. The Story of Harriet Tubman : Conductor of the Underground Railroad Catherine Clinton. Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom Ann Petry. Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad Ann McGovern. Wanted Dead or Alive: The True Story of Harriet Tubman Earl Conrad. General Tubman. There’s a national campaign for March 10 as a national holiday in honor of Harriet Tubman.
Contact: Louis C. Fields, President / African American Tourism Council of MD, Inc. / PO Box 3014 Baltimore, MD 21229-0014 / 410-783-5469, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Mission Statement The African American Tourism Council of MD, Inc. is a non-profit organization based within the City of Baltimore. Our mission is to research, document, preserve, protect and promote African American History, Culture and Tourism within the State of Maryland. www.hometown.aol.com/aatcofmd
Contact: African American Tourism Council of MD, Inc./ Louis C. Fields, President / PO Box 3014 / Baltimore, MD 21229-0014 / 410-783-5469 / email@example.com http://www.hometown.aol.com/bbhtours/ firstname.lastname@example.org
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14 February 2011
Harriet Tubman (born Araminta Ross; c. 1820 March 10, 1913) was an African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the American Civil War.
After escaping from slavery, into which she was born, she made 19 missions to Maryland to rescue over 300 people using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. If anyone ever wanted to change his or her mind during the journey to freedom and return, Tubman pulled out her revolver and said, Youll be free or youll die a slave!
The petite Tubman knew that if anyone turned back, it would put her and the other escaping slaves in danger of discovery, capture or even death. She became so well known for leading slaves to freedom that Tubman became known as the Moses of Her People. Many slaves dreaming of freedom sang the spiritual Go Down Moses.
Slaves hoped a savior would deliver them from slavery just as Moses had delivered the Israelites from slavery. During these dangerous journeys she helped rescue members of her own family, including her 70-year-old parents. At one point, rewards for Tubmans capture was a combined total of $40,000. Yet, she was never captured and never failed to deliver her passengers to safety. As Tubman herself said, On my Underground Railroad I [never] run my train off [the] track [and] I never [lost] a passenger.
One day, when she was an adolescent, Tubman was sent to a dry-goods store for some supplies. There, she encountered a slave owned by a different family, who had left the fields without permission. His overseer, furious, demanded that Tubman help restrain the young man. She refused, and as the slave ran away, the overseer threw a two-pound weight from the stores counter. It missed and struck Tubman instead, which she said broke my skull. She later explained her belief that her hairwhich had never been combed and . . . stood out like a bushel basketmight have saved her life.
Bleeding and unconscious, Tubman was returned to her owners house and laid on the seat of a loom, where she remained without medical care for two days. She was immediately sent back into the fields, with blood and sweat rolling down my face until I couldnt see. Her boss said she was not worth a sixpence and returned her to Brodess, who tried unsuccessfully to sell her. She began having seizures and would seemingly fall unconscious, although she claimed to be aware of her surroundings even though she appeared to be asleep.
These episodes were alarming to her family who were unable to wake her when she fell asleep suddenly and without warning. This condition remained with Tubman for the rest of her life; Larson suggests she may have suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy as a result of the injury. This severe head wound occurred at a time in her life when Tubman was becoming deeply religious. As an illiterate child, she had been told Bible stories by her mother.
The particular variety of her early Christian belief remains unclear, but Tubman acquired a passionate faith in God. She rejected white interpretations of scripture urging slaves to be obedient, finding guidance in the Old Testament tales of deliverance. After her brain trauma, Tubman began experiencing visions and potent dreams, which she considered signs from the divine. This religious perspective instructed her throughout her life.
She later helped John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harpers Ferry, and in the post-war era she retired to the family home in Auburn, NY (sold to her by the abolitionist and US Senator, William H. Seward for $1,200) and worked for womens suffrage.
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By Jeffrey D. Sachs
The Price of Civilization is a book that is essential reading for every American. In a forceful, impassioned, and personal voice, he offers not only a searing and incisive diagnosis of our countrys economic ills but also an urgent call for Americans to restore the virtues of fairness, honesty, and foresight as the foundations of national prosperity. Sachs finds that both political partiesand many leading economistshave missed the big picture, offering shortsighted solutions such as stimulus spending or tax cuts to address complex economic problems that require deeper solutions. Sachs argues that we have profoundly underestimated globalizations long-term effects on our country, which create deep and largely unmet challenges with regard to jobs, incomes, poverty, and the environment. Americas single biggest economic failure, Sachs argues, is its inability to come to grips with the new global economic realities. Sachs describes a political system that has lost its ethical moorings, in which ever-rising campaign contributions and lobbying outlays overpower the voice of the citizenry. . . .
Sachs offers a plan to turn the crisis around. He argues persuasively that the problem is not Americas abiding values, which remain generous and pragmatic, but the ease with which political spin and consumerism run circles around those values. He bids the reader to reclaim the virtues of good citizenship and mindfulness toward the economy and one another.
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By Gil Scott Heron
Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King’s birthday ended up becoming a national holiday (“The Last Holiday because America can’t afford to have another national holiday”), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered.
Gil uses Lennon’s violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King’s assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. Jamie Byng, Guardian
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By John Dramani Mahama
Though the colonies of sub-Saharan Africa began to claim independence in the late 1950s and 60s, autocratic and capricious leadership soon caused initial hope to fade, and Africa descended into its lost decades, a period of stagnation and despondency from which much of the continent has yet to recover. Mahama, vice president of the Republic of Ghana, grew up alongside his nascent country and experienced this roller-coaster of fortunes. In this memoir, Mahama, the son of a member of parliament, recounts how affairs of state became real in his young mind on the day in 1966 when no one came to collect him from boarding schoolthe government had been overthrown, his father arrested, and his house confiscated. In fluid, unpretentious style, Mahama unspools Ghanas recent history via entertaining and enlightening personal anecdotes: spying on his uncle impersonating a deity in order to cajole offerings of soup from the villagers hints at the power of religion; discussions with his schoolmates about confronting a bully form the nucleus of his political awakening.
As he writes: The key to Africas survival has always been . . . in the story of its people, the paradoxical simplicity and complexity of our lives. The book draws to a close as the authors professional life begins. Publishers Weekly
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 1 June 2012