Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero
Kate Clifford Larson
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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.
From the Hardcover edition.
world.”44 The cultural traditions of West African peoples enslaved in the Chesapeake region and elsewhere may have persisted in the New World far longer than has previously been thought. Enslaved Africans from the Gold Coast “brought an acute understanding of the role and significance of land with them to the New World. They were among those who saw the need for a connection both tangible and spiritual.”45 Historians long believed that cultural retention was nearly impossible due to significant
chance to secure a local buyer, the Rosses probably had no such opportunity. No records exist for the sales of these two sisters. Curiously, most buyers would have required a bill of sale to secure their title; registering the sale at the local courthouse ensured legal ownership. Brodess may have avoided such a process by selling to a less-than-scrupulous buyer; by not registering the sale at the Dorchester County courthouse, he could avoid paying taxes on the transaction. Also, out-of-county
Tabby House, 1998), 209–10. 103. Alice Lucas Brickler to Earl Conrad, July 28, 1939, Earl Conrad/ Harriet Tubman Collection, New York Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. 104. Ibid. 105. “Harriet Tubman Ill and Penniless. Noted Colored Woman Taken to Harriet Tubman Home Which She Founded,” New York Age, New York, June 8, 1911. 106. “Moses of Her Race Ending Her Life in Home She Founded,” New York World, New York, June 25, 1911; “When Slaves Were Spirited Underground
plentiful as well. Many slaves running for freedom along the land route through eastern Maryland into Delaware and north into Pennsylvania or east and north into New Jersey lacked adequate clothing and shoes. Spiny sweet gum burrs, thorny thickets, the sharp needles of marsh grass, and icy paths in the winter all took their toll on the feet and limbs of struggling runaways. The Eastern Shore's numerous rivers, streams, and wetlands presented a serious hindrance, particularly to runaways who could
of slavery to be addressed at a later time.102 But by the summer of 1861 General Butler, then at Fortress Monroe in Virginia, decided that slaves, who were considered property by their Confederate owners, could be taken into Union camps under his control, ostensibly under war resolutions allowing for the confiscation of rebel property. He called these fugitive slaves flooding to Union lines “contrabands of war.”103 It did not become an official Union policy until March 1862, when a new guideline