Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton

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Summary

Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom is a biography by Catherine Clinton. Since Tubman couldn’t read, all of what Clinton writes about in the book comes from the accounts of others. The book uses these accounts to follow Tubman’s life, starting with her birth sometime in the 1820s in Armanita Ross in the state of Maryland. Records weren’t as good back then, especially when it came to slaves, so the exact date isn’t known.

When she was in her early 20s, Tubman escaped her servitude and found her way to the North and to freedom. In your paper, this is where you can talk about how the source of Tubman’s fame began since, at this point in her story, she began going back to the South to help other slaves escape. She actually started doing this within a year of her earning her own freedom.

The book also goes over Tubman’s marriage to John Tubman, her establishment of a spy ring during the civil war, and many other events such as the brain injury she sustained as a teenager. The story goes that she tried to stop a master from hurting a slave, stepping in the way. The master hit her in the head with a lead weight, and this lead to many health issues throughout her life, such as the hallucinations that she suffered.

Summary

(Literary Masterpieces, Critical Compilation)

Catherine Clinton's biography of Harriet Tubman has been widely praised by critics as a highly readable, historically accurate portrayal of the life and times of this heroic woman. Tubman was illiterate throughout her life, so she left no diaries or letters in her own hand. Moreover, the essential secrecy of the Underground Railroad, the movement with which Tubman's life was inextricably bound, means that personal details of her story can never be recovered. Catherine Clinton, a distinguished historian, has relied on meticulous research and her extensive knowledge of African American history to tell the story of Tubman's life in the context of the times in which she lived.

Araminta Green was born a slave into the plantation society of the eastern shore of Maryland between 1820 and 1825; because slave births were not recorded, the date is uncertain. Araminta's mother, Harriet Green, was powerless to prevent the sale of two of her daughters, lost to her forever when they were sent into the Deep South. Green did, however, successfully defy her master by hiding one of her sons in order to prevent his sale. Benjamin Ross, Araminta's father and a skilled workman, assisted his master, John Stewart, in managing his lumber business.

Young Araminta's health was damaged when her master put her to work at tasks far beyond her age and capability. The image of her two sisters, sold off and taken away in a slave coffle, haunted Araminta for the rest of her life. Araminta, a resourceful and intelligent child, must have understood at an early age the terrible destruction of family life and the powerlessness of the individual that accompanied slavery. As a teenager, she sustained a severe injury when she was hit in the head by a lead weight, thrown by an angry overseer at another slave. She underwent a long recovery and suffered a lifelong disability, probably as a result of this injury. Throughout her life she suffered “spells,” or uncontrolled periods of deep sleep that overcame her without warning.

Instead of despairing of the harsh reality of her life, young Araminta turned to God, developing the strong religious faith that was to sustain her throughout her life. Believing that it was God's will that she fulfill her destiny as a free woman, she escaped in 1849, aided by the Underground Railroad. She left behind her husband, John Tubman, a free black man, who chose not to accompany her. Later in life she explained her motive for her escape: “I had reasoned this out in my mind: there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.”

Her public life began in 1849 when she joined the large population of free black people in Philadelphia. A fugitive, she was in constant...

(The entire section is 2,116 words.)