Journey Toward Freedom Critical Context - Essay

Jacqueline Bernard

Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Truth and Harriet Tubman are the two best-known woman antislavery activists of the mid-nineteenth century in the United States. Their lives are in ways similar: Each was born into slavery, each became free, and each worked to free other slaves. Truth persuaded people, while Tubman relied on physical action. Truth was a famous speaker, while Tubman, called the “Moses of her people,” led at least three hundred slaves to freedom. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s, which promoted increased opportunities for African Americans in the United States and focused attention on African-American leaders, created an intellectual climate favorable to publishing biographies of these two women and of other famous African Americans. Hertha Pauli published Her Name Was Sojourner Truth in 1962, Bernard published Journey Toward Freedom in 1967, and Jacob Lawrence published Harriet and the Promised Land in 1968.

Truth also worked for women’s rights. In doing so, she anticipated concerns voiced by activists in the women’s movement, which was beginning to become a prominent social force in the late 1960’s. Thus, Bernard’s biography also responds to this aspect of the intellectual climate at the time when the book was originally published. The book presents a strong female role model for young adults and shows what one woman accomplished through self-confidence and a commitment to solving social problems.