help with analysis due in 36 hours

due in 36 hours


Don't use plagiarized sources. Get Your Custom Essay on
help with analysis due in 36 hours
Just from $13/Page
Order Essay

Poster Analysis Worksheet


What are the main colors used in the poster?


What symbols (if any) are used in the poster?


If a symbol is used, is it

a. clear (easy to interpret)?

b. memorable?

c. dramatic?


Are the messages in the poster primarily visual, verbal, or both?


Who do you think is the intended audience for the poster?


What does the creator of the poster hope the audience will do?


What purpose(s) is served by the poster?


The most effective posters use symbols that are unusual, simple, and direct. Is this an effective poster?

Designed and developed by the

Education Staff, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC 20408

)Photo Analysis Worksheet

Step 1. Observation


Study the photograph for 2 minutes. Form an overall impression of the photograph and then examine individual items. Next, divide the photo into quadrants and study each section to see what new details become visible.


Use the chart below to list people, objects, and activities in the photograph.

Step 2. Inference

Based on what you have observed above, list three things you might infer from this photograph.

Step 3. Questions


What questions does this photograph raise in your mind?


Where could you find answers to them?

Designed and developed by the

Education Staff, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC 20408

Cartoon Analysis Worksheet

Level 1


Words (not all cartoons include words)

1. List the objects or people you see in the cartoon.

1. Identify the cartoon caption and/or title.

2. Locate three words or phrases used by the cartoonist to identify objects or people within the cartoon.

3. Record any important dates or numbers that appear in the cartoon.

Level 2



2. Which of the objects on your list are symbols?

3. What do you think each symbol means?

4. Which words or phrases in the cartoon appear to be the most significant? Why do you think so?

5. List adjectives that describe the emotions portrayed in the cartoon.

Level 3

A. Describe the action taking place in the cartoon.

B. Explain how the words in the cartoon clarify the symbols.

C. Explain the message of the cartoon.

D. What special interest groups would agree/disagree with the cartoon’s message? Why?

Designed and developed by the

Education Staff, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC 20408

Written Document Analysis Worksheet



Newspaper Map Advertisement

Letter Telegram Congressional Record Patent Press Release Census Report Memorandum Report Other



Interesting Letterhead Notations Handwritten “RECEIVED” stamp Typed Other








DOCUMENT INFORMATION (There are many possible ways to answer A-E.) A. List three things the author said that you think are important:

B. Why do you think this document was written?

C. What evidence in the document helps you know why it was written? Quote from the document.

D. List two things the document tells you about life in the United States at the time it was written.

E. Write a question to the author that is left unanswered by the document:

Designed and developed by the

Education Staff, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC 20408

Map Analysis Worksheet


TYPE OF MAP (Check one):

Raised Relief map Bird’s-eye map

Topographic map Artifact map

Political map Satellite photograph/mosaic

Contour-line map Pictograph Natural resource map Weather map Military map Other


UNIQUE PHYSICAL QUALITIES OF THE MAP (Check one or more): Compass Name of mapmaker Handwritten Title
Date Legend (key)

Notations Other










A. List three things in this map that you think are important.




B. Why do you think this map was drawn?

C. What evidence in the map suggests why it was drawn?

D.. What information does this map add to the textbook’s account of this event?

E. Does the information in this map support or contradict information that you have read about this event? Explain.

F. Write a question to the mapmaker that is left unanswered by this map.

Designed and developed by the

Education Staff, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC 20408

Artifact Analysis Worksheet


Describe the material from which it was made: bone, pottery, metal, wood, stone, leather, glass, paper, cardboard, cotton, plastic, other material.


Describe how it looks and feels: shape, color, texture, size, weight, movable parts, anything printed, stamped or written on it.



A. What might it have been used for?
B. Who might have used it?
C. Where might it have been used?
D. When might it have been used?



A. What does it tell us about technology of the time in which it was made and used?
B. What does it tell us about the life and times of the people who made it and used it? C. Can you name a similar item today?



Designed and developed by the

Education Staff, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC 20408

Primary Source Analysis


Primary Source Analysis (100 points towards Final Grade) – Due Week 4:

Assignment Expectations: As part of your Research Project, the third assignment requirement expects students to complete a Primary Source Analysis Assignment of TWO primary sources on your chosen topic. For this assignment, you will do a search for two (2) primary sources from an appropriate database that houses primary sources related to your topic (further details below). Once students select two primary sources, they should complete the appropriate Primary Source Analysis Worksheet. Finally, after reading and analyzing these two sources, students will write a 250-word Primary Source Analysis Narrative for each primary source. Once again, for each primary source, students will submit a Primary Source Analysis Worksheet and a 250-word Primary Source Analysis Narrative. Keep reading to find out more about where to find sources for this assignment and what your analysis should include. As always, if you have questions, please feel free to reach out to your instructor.

But First, What Exactly is a Primary Source? Primary Sources are original records of the political, economic, artistic, scientific, social and intellectual thoughts and achievements of specific historical periods. They are produced by the people who participated in and witnessed the past. Primary sources offer a variety of points of view and perspectives of events, issues, people and places. These original sources were used or created by someone with firsthand experience of an event and these records can be found anywhere – i.e. at home or in government archives. Moving forward, if you still have questions about primary sources, please email me with questions. If you prefer further verification, please feel free to email me the sources that you plan to use.

National Archives: Primary Source Analysis Worksheets – The National Archives has created analysis worksheets to help you work with primary sources. Copies of these worksheets are provided as attachments in the Primary Source Analysis assignment. The worksheets consist of a combination of checklists and short-answer questions that will help you focus on the most important elements of many different types of historical documents. You will need the worksheets to complete the Primary Source Analysis assignment

Where can you find Primary Sources? Where should students look for primary sources?? Well, the UMGC LIBRARY, of course!! Why, you ask? Well, the UMGC library subscribes to many databases that contain such resources and are available to you in full-text and electronic format. Additionally, students can find sources through the Library of Congress, National Archives or University Libraries and Archives.

Here are some helpful links to get started with the research process.

What are Primary Sources??

Library of Congress: Teaching with Primary Sources (video and transcript) – definition of primary and secondary sources and why use primary sources

Library of Congress: Why Use Primary Sources

Finding Primary Sources

Library of Congress: Finding Primary Sources

National Archives: Finding Primary Sources

About UMGC Library OneSearch

UMGC Database Searching Basics

UMGC Research Guide for History: Primary Sources

How to Cite Primary Sources

Library of Congress: Citing Primary Sources – Chicago style

How do I Analyze Primary Sources?

Library of Congress: Analyzing a Primary Source (video and transcript)

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with questions about finding appropriate primary sources for your research. Do not use resources from,, online encyclopedias or similar tertiary sources. While these tertiary sources are useful for general knowledge, they are not primary sources. Should students use one or more of these sites, then they will not receive credit and the instructor will ask you to redo this assignment.

Assignment Directions: After selecting, reading and analyzing your primary source(s), please make sure that both analyses follow the format below and includes the following information. Please note, students must submit a Primary Source Analysis Worksheet for each source AND a Primary Source Analysis Narrative for each source. If possible, please save all of your work in one PDF or Word document file to submit to your instructor for review.

Complete a Primary Source Analysis Worksheet for each primary source. Please make sure to elaborate with your answers. The more information, the better!

Format: Each Primary Source Analysis Narrative should be typed in a word document, with 1-inch margins, double spaced, and include no less than 250 words.

Bibliography: At the top of each Primary Source Analysis Narrative, students should provide a complete bibliographic entry. This complete bibliographic entry should include a formal citation, including the URL and your date of access. How should you cite your primary source?? Check out the link below.

Library of Congress: Citing Primary Sources – Chicago Style

Analysis and Content: Each Primary Source Analysis Narrative should include a detailed summary of the source– in your own words. Ultimately, this should be written within the first two paragraphs of your analysis and should:

Identify the type of source, author, when and where the source was produced, and any unique quality or characteristics

Summary of source

Strengths and Weaknesses of source; any unanswered questions

What the source indicates about the time period it was produced and how the source defined, influenced and/or shaped history within the time frame of the course and possibly on a global scale.

Each primary source should explain how the article pertains to your research

Ideally this information would be stated at the end of your analysis

It is important that students share more than a simple sentence in this analysis. I would like to see a paragraph dedicated to this portion of the assignment.

Submitting Your Work: Students can submit their work under the Primary Source Assignment directions. Click on this assignment, scroll to the bottom of the page where you see “Add Attachments,” and then attach assignment here. Students can also submit this assignment through the Assignment tab. Students will also see the rubric attached to this assignment. Please make sure to review the rubric before submitting your final draft.

Jean M. Humez. Harriet Tubman: The Life and the Life Stories. Madison: U
of Wisconsin P, 2004. 484 pp. ISBN 0-299-19120-6, $45.00.

Harriet Tubman, the legendary escaped slave who guided scores of slaves to
freedom, has been the subject of well over a hundred children’s books, yet
no major biography of her life has been produced since 1943. One might
argue that this contradiction demonstrates the ways in which Tubman, the
mythic figure said to have been guided by the North Star, mystical visions,
and her famous motto—“I can’t die but once”—has come to represent many
things and serve many needs in the cultural imagination. In light of all the
painful and shameful stories of slavery that would not and perhaps could not
be told, the story of Tubman’s heroic feats in the face of the monstrous insti-
tution replaced slavery’s legacy of disgrace, indignity, and guilt with the epic
narrative of a brave and victorious warrior. Perhaps to flesh out the life of the
woman behind the icon would complicate that narrative displacement, yet,
such an investigation is exactly what Jean M. Humez’s biography of Tub-
man attempts. Humez’s study encounters dense intersections between Tub-
man the iconic figure, and Tubman the private self. Indeed, Humez argues
that the public image of Tubman has virtually swallowed the private woman.
In this biography, Humez attempts to illuminate the creation of Tubman’s
celebrity while also resurrecting the private Tubman, who was shrouded by
that celebrity.

To that end, Humez offers a four-part volume that begins with a biog-
raphical overview of Tubman’s life. Situating Tubman’s biography within
the growing national crisis over slavery, in Part One Humez compiles
accounts of Tubman’s history, not with the intent of offering a definitive
biography, but rather an interpretative outline that carefully brings multiple
accounts of Tubman’s life into conversation with each other. The result is an
illuminating account that delineates the historical contours that shaped Tub-
man’s life, while also closely examining the biographical data on Tubman.
Taking into account the cross-fertilization of iconography and biography,
Humez attempts to locate the boundaries between the two, and thus map a
probable account of Tubman’s life. For example, in her description of Tub-
man’s escape, Humez compares early accounts that claim that Tubman was
assisted in her escape by a white woman with later accounts that describe
Tubman as having escaped slavery alone, guided only by the North Star.
Humez concludes that while the former is probably the less “heroic” of the
two versions, it seems “highly likely” that Tubman would have received such
assistance, and that such an early alliance might explain Tubman’s later ami-
able relationships with politically like-minded white women activists.
Humez’s account is replete with words such as “probably,” “maybe,” and

868 Biography 27.4 (Fall 2004)

07-Reviews_845-881 1/6/05 9:23 AM Page 868

“likely.” However, her speculative explorations often rely heavily on histori-
cal evidence that compels such interpretative reflection and warmly invites
scholarly inquiry.

Part Two of the biography is an innovative attempt to prove that Tub-
man, an illiterate slave, “did ‘write’ her autobiography.” According to Humez,
Tubman used all of the resources available to her as a storyteller and celebri-
ty to create her public story. Humez contends that Tubman actively shaped
her public legacy, and even exerted considerable control over the most exten-
sive biography of her written in her life time. Interestingly, Humez mines
Tubman’s public performances, arguing that these performances, which
included songs, storytelling, and performing dramatic reenactments, arguing
that these performances not only projected the iconic Tubman, but also
helped to create the audience for the biography, which Tubman collaborated
on with Sarah Hopkins Bradford. Humez explores the possibility of finding
Tubman’s voice within the biographical texts, proposing Tubman’s author-
ship might be best exemplified in the “mini-narratives” or “core stories” in
which Tubman is not only a character but also controls the narrative per-
spective. Humez argues that these narratives are Tubman’s creation and
exhibit artfully crafted narrative structures that may have evaded revision and
censorship by the biographers. Despite this optimistic portrait of the possi-
bilities of locating Tubman within the mire of biographical accounts and
cultural iconography, Humez also calls attention to the silences, especially
ones related to Tubman’s family history, in the interview-based biographies.
In addition, Humez probes what she reads as the biographers’ perspective of
“racial ‘otherness’” that shapes their accounts of Tubman.

Parts Three and Four are fascinating collections of biographical extracts
and primary source materials. The former includes extracts from three biog-
raphies of Tubman, all of which Tubman participated in. Humez describes
the section as an assembly of “every individual life history story I was able to
locate.” Entitled “Stories and Sayings,” the section is a rich resource for future
study of Tubman. The various accounts trace Tubman’s early history, her
activism, and her growing celebrity. While Humez argues that these materi-
als also contribute to our understanding of the private Tubman, they some-
times illustrate the inextricability of that private self from the iconography.
Each of these accounts, though extracted from its contexts, speaks to the com-
plexities of a historical moment, and personal and collective agendas. Many
of them also suggest the tension between the teller’s agenda and that of
Tubman. Such conflicts should not be surprising, considering that Tubman,
who Humez convincingly argues was the author of her life, was also in many
ways competing with others for that authorship.

Reviews 869

07-Reviews_845-881 1/6/05 9:23 AM Page 869

Though she maps the ways in which Tubman shaped her own legacy,
Humez also contends for that authorship, forming an image of Tubman as
not only a powerful storyteller, but a bit of a nineteenth-century spin doctor
who carefully erected her image and her legacy. Humez’s argument forces
readers to rethink the relationship between authorship, authority, literacy,
and slavery, shifting from Tubman as a character within a particular meta-
narrative, to Tubman as the inventor of a public self and narrative. For this
reason and others, Humez’s biography is a dynamic contribution to the fields
of history, women’s studies, and literary studies.

Cassandra Jackson

Frank H. Goodyear III. Red Cloud: Photographs of a Lakota Chief. Lincoln:
U of Nebraska P, 2003. 211 pp. 97 photographs. ISBN 0-8032-2192-4,

Frank H. Goodyear III’s book Red Cloud: Photographs of a Lakota Chief
brings an interesting and fresh perspective to photographic artifacts usually
seen as simply another weapon in the colonial arsenal. That photos of Native
Americans were, and still are, used in ways that participate in the ongoing
and mythologizing construction of American Indians as silent, noble Other
to Western civilization cannot be disputed—a point made by authors such
as Lucy Lippard, Gerald Vizenor, and James Clifford, among others. Good-
year discusses how the typical uses of these photographs center on white con-
sumption: the amusement of the white masses through newspapers or dime
novels, markers of social standing for the wealthier classes who commis-
sioned and owned collections of such photos, and ethnographic analysis by
social scientists and anthropologists. At the same time, though, Goodyear
asks us to (re)consider our long-held views of one such photographic subject
in particular, the Lakota leader Red Cloud (1821–1909), as instead a willing
participant in what Goodyear wants us to recognize as a “transcultural con-
versation” (4).

The first few pages of the book can be taken to symbolize Goodyear’s
approach to the impressive assortment of eighty-one photographs he has
gathered and carefully analyzed. Bright red pages invoke at once the foreign-
ness and amorphousness of Red Cloud’s name as a signifier. A white page
with the words “Red Cloud” in small font toward the top right follows, as if
to suggest that this name, this historical figure, this man was both a blank
page onto which meanings were projected and a canvas for Red Cloud’s own
“self-fashioning” (6). The next page positions a negative image of the photo-
graph that appears on the facing title page in this white blankness. This series

870 Biography 27.4 (Fall 2004)

07-Reviews_845-881 1/6/05 9:23 AM Page 870


Hamiet Tubman, Sojourner Truth Among
Historic Heroines Whose Stories Are Told At National

Underground Railroad Freedom Center

H1arnet T1ubman Z’ojourner Truth

The new $110 million National
Underground Railroad Freedom Cen-
ter (NURFC) in Cincinnati is dedicat-
ed to commemorating the past efforts
of those who helped overcome slavery
and other barriers to freedom, as well
as honoring those who continue the
efforts worldwide today.

Among the scores of stories of free-
dom recounted at the Center are those
of freedom fighters Harriet Tubman
and Sojourner Truth, whose exploits
also are highlighted on the Teaching
Personal Freedom Tour, co-sponsored
by NURFC and Procter & Gamble,
makers of the popular household
brands Tide, Bounty, Pantene, Crest,
Charmin, Pampers and Luvs.

The tour features singer-actress
Denise Thimes’ one woman show of
dramatizations and songs, portraying
historic Black women and celebrating
freedom we share in America.

Tubman, who was born a slave,
was one of the most celebrated lead-
ers of the. Underground Railroad.
Truth, also born into slavery, was an
abolitionist and the first Black female
orator to speak out against slavery.

Tubman was born Araminta Ross
inBucktown, MD, circa 18


, but was
called by her mother’s name, Harriet.
At 13 she was clubbed in the head by
a slave master for trying to help
another slave avoid punishment and
suffered blackouts her entire life.

She married John Tubman, a freed
slave, in 1844 and later escaped to
Philadelphia when she was 25. She
returned South to lead hundreds of
slaves to freedom during the 1850s on
the Underground Railroad, a network
of safe houses and hiding places from
the South to the North.

Tubman never was caught and
never lost a slave during her rescues.
She also served in the Civil War as a
scout, nurse and spy for the Union
Army before her death in 1883.

Sojourner Truth was born Isabella
Baumfree, circa 1797, inUJlster Coun-
ty, NY. A slave from birth, Truth got
her freedomin 1828 after passage of a
New York law that banned slavery.
Fifteen years later, she said she had a
revelation from God that her mission
in life was to preach. Soon her ser-
mons focused on abolishing slavery.

She became a popular orator in
New England and the Midwest. In
1864, Truth visited President Abra-
ham Lincoln in the White House and
decided to remain in Washington,
D.C., to help improve conditions for
Blacks there. Until her death in 1883,
she helped find jobs and homes for
slaves who had escaped the South.



TITLE: Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth Among Historic
Heroines Whose Stories Are Told At National
Underground Railroad Freedom Center

SOURCE: Jet 105 no6 F 9 2004
WN: 0404102618006

The magazine publisher is the copyright holder of this article and it
is reproduced with permission. Further reproduction of this article in
violation of the copyright is prohibited. To contact the publisher:

Copyright 1982-2004 The H.W. Wilson Company. All rights reserved.

i-iarriet Tubman and
the Road to Freedom

Introduction and Summary: The name Harriet
Tubman will probably be familiar to most students.
Although we know her as a great heroine and conductor
on the Underground Railroad, we don’t often get a
chance to think about what she was like as a teenager
dreaming about freedom. This play will give students
the opportunity to envision Harriet Tubman as a young
person like themselves, who had the courage to risk her
life ‘not only for her own freedom, but for the freedom
of as many others as she could help.

: To explore the themes of personal and
societal freedom.

NOTE & IRA Standards: Read a range of materials •
Read a range of literary works • Apply a range of read-
ing strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and
appreciate texts • Act as a member of literacy commu-
nities • Use spoken, written, and visual language to
achieve goals.

Wdte the word “freedom” on the board and
ask students to write a journal entry about what this word
means to them. Ask them to consider these questions:

a) How much freedom do you have in your daily life?
b) Do your parents limit your freedom? In what ways?
c) Do laws limit your freedom? How?
d) Is our society free?
e) Are all societies free? •
f) What are some ways freedom is limited in our

country or in other countries?
Have volunteers share their ideas in a class discussion.

Conclude by pointing out the difference between per-
sonal freedom (e.g., how late their parents will let them
stay out) and societal freedom (e.g., whether they have
freedom of speech, press, and religion; the right to go
to school.)

Discussion Questions
1. Think about Harriet Tubman as a teenager your own
age. In what ways do you think slavery limited her free-
dom on a daily basis? (She had to work infields, didn’t go
to school, feared that she could be sold away from her family,
had to obey her master no matter what, etc.)
2. Harriet escaped from slavery when she was in her
20s. Why do you think she went back for others instead
of simply enjoying her own freedom? (She couldn’t be

happy knowing her family and others were not free.)
3. Both black and white people worked on the
Underground Railroad. What beliefs do you think
they shared? (that all people should be free; slavery is
cruel and unjust)
4. Do you think all people innately (naturally) want to
be free? (Answers may include yes, the human spirit always
longs for fieedom; Harriet saw the freedom white people had,
and that made her want her own freedom, etc.)
5. Can you think of countries today in which citizens or
certain groups of citizens do not enjoy the freedoms you
think they should? Do you think everyone in the United
States is equally free? (China, Cuba, Afghanistan, etc.;
answers will vary.)

Writing a Bill of Rights (interpersonal learners)
Arrange students in groups and assign half the

groups to discuss personal freedom, and the other half to
discuss societal freedom. Ask groups to come up with at
least 10 rights that they would include in a Bill of Rights
for young people. Eor example, the “personal rights”
groups might think of laws like, “Young people have the
right to select their own clothing,” whereas the other
groups might write laws such as, “There wiU be no dif-
ference in how boys and girls’ are treated in school.”
Have groups share their final lists with the class. Which
rights do they already enjoy? Which do they lack? How
much do the personal and societal rights overlap?

Writing Thank-you Letters to Harriet
Ask students to imagine that they’re among the 300 for-
mer slaves whom Harriet Tubman led to freedom. Have
them write thank-you letters to her, expressing their
gratitude for what she did. Have them describe what
the_ir new life of freedom is like compared with the way
it used to be. They might also want to point out some of
the dangers Harriet bravely confronted along the way.

Calculating Freedom (math/logic learners)
Ask students to come up with a way to

“measure” the freedom Harriet Tubman provided to
others. For example, 300 people times an approximate
number of years they lived in freedom; the number of
miles Harriet might have traveled over a lifetime; the
number of children who might have been born into
freedom rather than slavery; etc. Then, have them use
their calculation as the title of a poem they will write,
such as “9,000 Years of Freedom.”

This symbol stands for Multiple Intelligences. Activities marked with this
symboi draw on different iearning styies.

T-2 • Scope Teacher’s Edition


Reviewed Work(s): Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, and History. Durham and London:
Duke University Press, 2007. Pp. 409. Paper $24.95. Cloth $89.95. by Milton C. Sernett

Review by: Margaret Washington

Source: The Journal of African American History , Vol. 95, No. 2 (Spring 2010), pp. 260-

Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of Association for the Study of
African American Life and History

Stable URL:

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide
range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and
facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at

Terms and Conditions of Use

The University of Chicago Press and Association for the Study of African American Life and
History are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Journal of
African American History

This content downloaded from
������������� on Fri, 07 Oct 2022 21:46:53 UTC�������������

All use subject to

260 The Journal of African American History

and published interviews. In the discussion of the rebellion itself and the responses and
repercussions, Scully describes the mass panic among white Virginians who created
a volatile atmosphere of intense racial mistrust. White male dominance was restored
through the execution and vilification of the “slave rebels.” Sensationalized newspaper
accounts fomented racial disharmony and social unrest. Ultimately, white supremacists
used the revolt to further justify the maintenance of complete white control.

The title, Religion and the Making of Nat Turner’s Virginia, is somewhat
misleading, since it suggests that the primary focus is the religious environment
that produced Nat Turner. However, this study sheds very little light on Nat Turner’s
religion or the religious basis for resistance and rebellion among enslaved African
Americans. Turner and other the African Americans, free and enslaved, play only
supporting roles in this discussion of race and religion in antebellum Virginia.

Quenton L. Keatts
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

Milton C. Sernett, Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, and History. Durham and
London: Duke University Press, 2007. Pp. 409. Paper $24.95. Cloth $89.95.

The first scholarly biography of Harriet Tubman, the famous Underground
Railroad conductor, did not appear until 1943, and after a hiatus of sixty years, a
trilogy of works on Tubman was published in 2003 and 2004. However, given that
this amazing Maryland-born, non-literate, former slave, who came to be known as
the “Moses of Her People,” had not only been given her rightful place in the
historiography, one would think that a new work would add little to the existing
literature. However, in Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, and History, Milton C.
Sernett adds to the Tubman scholarship in an original and engaging manner by
using Tubman’s life to examine Tubman’s place in U.S. history and investigate how
she “has captured the American imagination so strongly, especially in the recent
past.” In weaving together the “real Tubman,” the sainted Tubman, and the symbolic
Tubman, Sernett re-presents her as a “national icon” who teaches us “about
ourselves as the American people.”

Sernett begins by examining how Harriet Tubman was enshrined in American
culture beginning with white abolitionists who first inscribed her place in history
by recounting her Underground Railroad activities in newspaper accounts during the
Civil War. Tubman herself, a great storyteller, helped to create her public persona.
These “stories” and recollections were used by Sarah Bradford in 1869 to hurriedly
compose the text for Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman. Bradford managed to
reissue Scenes in 1886, to help support an impoverished Tubman. Republished as

This content downloaded from
������������� on Fri, 07 Oct 2022 21:46:53 UTC�������������

All use subject to

Books Reviews 261

Harriet, the Moses of Her People, Bradford not only took “literary license,” but
Sernett also points to Bradford’s use of “racist and stereotypical language and
imagery.” While Tubman was still alive and residing in Auburn, New York,
Bradford and others were compiling what people said about her. Sernett believes
that Bradford’s interposition in the narrative creates a “mediated biography,” which
was the source of the myths that developed around Tubman’s antislavery activities,
including descriptions of sensational escapes. Bradford was the one who wrote that
Harriet returned to the South “nineteen times” and brought over “three hundred”
enslaved people to freedom. Likewise, the amount of the reward for her arrest shot
up to $40,000 in Bradford’s recounting. Sernett devotes too much space to the
debate over what Harriet’s exploits may or may not have achieved as part of the
Underground Railroad, and the recent studies of antislavery vigilance committees
suggesting that Harriet Tubman was by no means unique. However, Tubman
emerged as the dominant historical symbol of black resistance to slavery and she
has been embraced, memorialized, commemorated, and championed by Americans
from the late 19th century to the present.

Tubman’s representations changed over time and were captured by various
segments of American society. Harriet Tubman, the warrior, was a popular image
from the late 1850s into the Civil War, when she was allowed to ride at the head of
Colonel James Montgomery’s troops, and later led a squad of black spies on
reconnaissance missions for the Union Army. With the coming of Jim Crow and
heightened white chauvinism, most Americans in the mainstream forgot about
Harriet Tubman, but African Americans did not. Tubman was the guest of honor at
the inaugural meeting of the National Association of Colored Women in 1896 and
a souvenir poster from the meeting included an image of Tubman standing with a
rifle. Other African American groups celebrated Tubman, and after her death in
1913 the black residents of Auburn purchased her home with plans to make it a
memorial to her life and work. This was to be the first of many memorializations
of Tubman, which continued steadily in many art forms. She is often depicted as the
Underground Railroad conductor, and “Moses,” or as the demanding “General
Tubman”; and in 2000, there was the controversial mural painted in Baltimore,
Maryland, depicting a gun-toting Tubman parting the Red Sea. Tubman had become
an iconographic figure, even if she never actually “led” men into combat. Although
the U.S. Army never officially recognized Tubman’s service in the military, a U.S.
Navy battleship was named for her during World War II. In examining historical
writings, literature, poems, paintings, sculptures, and other representations, Sernett
is able to reveal the complexity and capaciousness of Harriet Tubman as a historical
figure, powerful enough to become an enduring icon.

There are some redundancies and repetitions in this study. Sernett takes up too
much space in too many places discussing the early biographers Sarah Bradford

This content downloaded from
������������� on Fri, 07 Oct 2022 21:46:53 UTC�������������

All use subject to

262 The Journal of African American History

and Earl Conrad; and while there is a separate chapter devoted to modern authors,
they also are discussed throughout the work. Sernett’s assertion that Conrad, like
Bradford, produced a “mediated biography” in 1943 because he could not “free
himself from the context of his times and the convolutions on race that were then
current” is unconvincing. Scholarship is shaped by the times in which it is carried
out, but this does not mean that scholars did not offer a balanced perspective in
their work. We should keep in mind, Sarah Bradford was not a scholar; and Earl
Conrad, a leftist journalist who wrote at least twenty-five books, conducted
exhaustive research for his well-written study for which he is not given enough

Nonetheless, Sernett’s Harriet Tubman is a rich, informative, well-documented
study by a noted historian of the African American experience who has written
about antislavery activities and African American religion as well as a significant
work on the Great Migration. Some may question whether Tubman is “America’s
most malleable icon,” as Milton Sernett maintains, but those interested in the
evolution of Americans’ collective memory of Harriet Tubman in its many artistic,
political, social, and historical forms will enjoy this book.

Margaret Washington
Cornell University

Shirley Elizabeth Thompson, Exiles at Home: The Struggle to Become American in
Creole New Orleans. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009. Pp. 362. Cloth

Shirley Elizabeth Thompson’s Exiles at Home confirms the familiar and
unfortunate history of “Creoles of color” in New Orleans and describes the failed
efforts by 19th-century “colored” political leaders to maintain positions of power
and social status in post–Civil War Louisiana. Moving beyond the prominent figures
associated with the Creoles’ history such as Homer J. Plessy and Rodolphe
Desdunes, Thompson uncovers many individual actors who struggled to maintain
a unique community in a society increasingly divided between black and white.
Most significantly, her analysis does not focus on Creoles of color as coming up
against an overpowering tide of racialization by the end of the 19th century, but
examines the stories of individuals who came together to defiantly define
themselves as a cultural group. When legal or “Jim Crow” segregation was thrust
upon New Orleans’s Creoles of color, they were not passive, but engaged in
constant political, social, and economic struggles to negotiate their distinctive place
in the new order and to preserve the community’s legacy.

This content downloaded from
������������� on Fri, 07 Oct 2022 21:46:53 UTC�������������

All use subject to

Of “Sound” and “Unsound” Body and Mind: Reconfiguring the
Heroic Portrait of Harriet Tubman

Janell Hobson

Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Volume 40, Number 2, 2019, pp. 193-218

Published by University of Nebraska Press

For additional information about this article

Access provided at 26 Jul 2019 13:35 GMT from Ebsco Publishing

Of “Sound” and “Unsound” Body and Mind
Reconfi guring the Heroic Portrait of Harriet Tubman

Janell Hobson

Harriet Tubman (ca. 1822– 1913) is central to narratives of US progressive
history and specifi cally black women’s history. For this reason, she can easily
be invoked in a historic acceptance speech by Viola Davis, who became the
fi rst black woman to win a Leading Actress Emmy in 2015 at a time when
she had planned to produce and star in a Tubman biopic. Tubman has also
inspired the establishment of a national park, as with the Harriet Tubman
Underground Railroad National Monument, and won the popular vote in
a 2015 campaign to place a historic woman on the US currency. She is even
contemporized for modern audiences, whether that involves denigrating her
in a vulgar spoof called the Harriet Tubman Sex Tape, which briefl y appeared
on and then was subsequently removed from Russell Simmons’s All- Def
Digital YouTube channel due to its controversy, or celebrating her in a satirized
Drunk History episode on Comedy Central, as portrayed by Octavia Spencer.
She also appeared in the popular television series Underground, portrayed by
Aisha Hinds, who delivered an unforgettable monologue in her iconic role.
Functioning as perhaps the most iconic black woman in American culture,
Tubman’s image, words, and story continue to inspire and provoke.

Despite her hypervisibility as a historic icon, Tubman, who is renowned
for her status as an Underground Railroad conductor, Civil War hero, and
woman’s suff ragist, remains invisible as a person with a disability. Th at is,
her disability as an identity marker is downplayed. I raise this issue for a
few reasons. First, Harriet Tubman has been heralded as an extraordinary
individual with incredible strength resulting in self- liberation and the
liberation of approximately seventy slaves from the antebellum South on
the Underground Railroad, and yet her “superwoman” abilities remain a
mystery for many— mostly because these abilities remove her from the
realm of the ordinary and the everyday. Second, this image of strong black
womanhood clings to a woman who historically suff ered from a disability

194 Frontiers/2019/Vol. 40, No. 2

throughout her life, thus complicating the “strength” she embodied. Finally,
Tubman was perceived as “illiterate,” a woman who could not read nor write
and therefore lacked the literary agency to make her own story legible in the
annals of history. Th is last point shift s the critique of Tubman’s disability from
the physical to the cognitive, in which her ingenuity, navigational skills, and
survival techniques are rendered mystically, even magically, as if they could
not be based in intellectual genius.

Steeped in romanticism and mysticism— guided as she was by her “super-
natural” visions in her journey along the Underground Railroad— Tubman
also functions as more mythical than historical in the popular imaginary.
She becomes what Vivian May describes as an “icon of strength,” someone
who “seems ahistorical, selfl ess, and without equal, not someone who worked
within long- established networks of communication and resistance.”1 Such a
mythic lens further restricts and confi nes notions of heroism. Tubman’s his-
tory is much like that of other legendary historical fi gures, who represent what
Nell Painter calls “invented greats.”2 Utilizing the example of Sojourner Truth
(1797– 1883), another black woman icon, Painter argues that such “invented
greats” are “consumed as a signifi er and beloved for what we need [them to

If greatness is based on what we need our icons to be, then perhaps it is time
to redefi ne what it means to be “great.” In other words, a non- ableist rendering
of the “great woman” must reconstitute Tubman in a way that foregrounds
what we might consider to be her “vulnerable strength” in the historical
narrative. By complicating her strength through the lens of vulnerability, I in
no way wish to diminish her abilities or to engender an ableist critique of the
strength she embodied. Instead, I wish to call attention to the ways that we
have discursively distinguished between weakness and strength, in which the
superwoman is always capable, while her opposite— the disabled woman— is
oft en assumed to be incapable.

Th is is a supposition that writer Carolyn Tyjewski challenges when re-
minding us that “if one looks at the historical fi gures that are most oft en
called forth as the quintessential ‘Strong Black Woman,’ most are Disabled
Black Women. . . . Harriet Tubman had severe epilepsy. Sojourner Truth had
a disfi gured arm.”4 Tyjewski explicitly names iconic black women from the
past who blurred the boundaries between “strength” and its constructed con-
trast: “disability.” She does so specifi cally to suggest that such women disrupt
these dichotomous constructions since they are precariously placed to re-
sist through “strength” the larger oppressive forces that have rendered them

In many ways, the strong black woman parallels the “supercrip.” Writer Eli

Hobson: Of “Sound” and “Unsound” Body and Mind 195

Clare suggests that supercrip narratives “focus on disabled people ‘overcom-
ing’ [their] disabilities. Th ey turn individual disabled people, who are sim-
ply leading their lives, into symbols of inspiration.”5 However, as Sami Schalk
challenges, such narratives need further nuance and complication since they
need not be “regarded as mostly regressive” in views of the disabled fi gure.6
Much as Tyjewski contests the view of the strong black woman as necessarily
pejorative— a view stemming from analyses by such black feminists as Michele
Wallace, who cautioned against the “myth of the superwoman” that hides “an
inexorable process of black female disenfranchisement, exploitation, oppres-
sion, and despair”7— Schalk similarly contends that supercrip narratives oper-
ate within narrative frameworks that off er positive attributes beyond the re-
ductive stereotype of “over- achieving” disability. When we view Tubman as
a historical fi gure who intersects the twin concepts of the supercrip and the
superwoman, we have an opportunity to complicate her “invented greatness,”
not by viewing her history as solely “overcoming” her socially constructed
race, gender, and disability but by situating her within a theoretical frame-
work that challenges the restrictive meanings of her body based in these op-
pressive systems.

Subsequently, I seek in this essay seeks to interrogate the function of “great
women” narratives and how we might reconstitute Tubman beyond the heroic
and iconic toward a more embodied realization of her historical subjectiv-
ity. Rather than reduce her to superwoman status— or elevate her, as the case
may be— we may fi nd it useful to examine how cultural memory might shape
identity politics around race, gender, class, and disability. Disability specifi –
cally was crucial to the system of chattel slavery that Tubman escaped, even
if we don’t oft en recognize it as a category of analysis. Referring to a slave’s
“soundness” of body, historian Dea Boster argues the following:

Although it is diffi cult, if not impossible, to estimate a percentage of
slaves who were considered disabled or “unsound,” it is clear that dis-
abling conditions were common among bondspeople in the antebel-
lum South. Meager subsistence, unsafe work conditions, repetitive
stress injuries, corporeal punishment, and abuse— physical, sexual, or
emotional— could cause physical and mental conditions among African
American bondspeople that rendered slaves unsound in the eyes of the
slaveholding class.8

Recasting Tubman primarily through her disability— resulting from a se-
vere head injury sustained during her adolescence that impacted her ninety-
one years of life— can off er us glimpses into the external forces that contrib-
uted to the “disabling” of her body and the collective body of other African

196 Frontiers/2019/Vol. 40, No. 2

Americans, enslaved or free, disabled or able- bodied. In being made vulner-
able in raced, classed, gendered, and able- bodied systems of oppression that
simultaneously required the “strength” of the black body politic to engineer
the plantation economy, Tubman’s historic status can illuminate a diff erent
portraiture of an ex- bondwoman incapacitated by a slave system but still sub-
versive in redefi ning her disability through self- reclamation as well as through
her commitment to social justice with emphases on communal care, respect,
and devotion to the disabled members in society.

Tubman’s lifelong advocacy for the disabled community presents us with
a historical model for black feminist praxis and an analytical approach to in-
tersecting African American history with feminist disability studies. For the
remainder of this essay, I examine Tubman’s disabled body and the ways it
can extend academic discourses on corporeality. I further examine both ac-
ademic and popular representations of Tubman, which oft en foreclose on
her contributions to black women’s intellectual histories, while more recent
narratives— namely, WGN’s Underground cable television series— have nu-
anced this iconography. Finally, I analyze photographic portraits produced
during Tubman’s lifetime, as well as the social- media discourse found on the
Internet, which emerged in the wake of the US Treasury Department’s an-
nouncement on April 20, 2016, of Tubman’s future appearance on the twenty-
dollar paper currency. Th ese conversations off er insights into the craft ing of
national memory and historical reclamation, specifi cally concerning the poli-
tics of inclusivity around race, gender, and disability. As David Blight reminds
us, “Defl ections and evasions, careful remembering and necessary forgetting,
and embittered and irreconcilable versions of experience are all the stuff of
historical memory.”9

Th e national discourses surrounding the memory of Tubman at times chal-
lenge and at other times reinforce limited representations of disabled black
womanhood. Invariably, they re- inscribe what Ellen Samuels calls “fantasies
of identifi cation,”10 oft en based in cultural, political, and social assumptions
and authoritative corroborations that defi ne our raced, gendered, and dis-
abled bodies. In examining these dynamics, I contend that such narratives
compel the need for a black feminist praxis that redefi nes concepts of great-
ness and heroism, as embodied by an iconic disabled black woman.

Harriet Tubman’s Disabled Body

Harriet Tubman (née Araminta Ross, nicknamed Minty in her youth and
“Black Moses” as an adult) is renowned for her liberatory role as a conductor
on the Underground Railroad— a secretive passageway that shuttled countless

Hobson: Of “Sound” and “Unsound” Body and Mind 197

fugitives from the slave South to the free North, including Canada, during the
antebellum period when slave laws curtailed, and quite literally “disabled,” 11
the free movement of bondspeople and when a thriving agricultural economy,
based in cotton and other crops, relied heavily on unpaid and enslaved labor.
For her part in this history, Tubman escaped from slavery in the late fall of
1849 when she was twenty- seven years old, leaving behind her husband John
Tubman and her extended family upon the threat of being sold away in the
wake of her enslaver Edward Brodess’s death. Described as “chestnut- colored”
and “fi ne- looking” in a runaway advertisement documenting her fi rst attempt
at escape with two of her brothers, Brodess’s widow Eliza, Tubman’s new en-
slaver, valued her with a capture price of one hundred dollars.12 Folklore has
imagined her price increasing in value alongside her notoriety, as legendary
tales describe a bounty on her head once reaching the value of twenty thou-
sand dollars aft er she had freed several slaves from diff erent plantations.

Th is fabricated “value” for Tubman’s capture imagines her ability to tran-
scend systems of oppression, although Tubman herself recognized that as she
was a disabled bondwoman, potential buyers “wouldn’t give a sixpence for
me” on the slave market.13 Speaking in the language of commerce, Tubman
refl ects an understanding of a system predicated on what Daina Ramey Berry
describes as the “exchangeable commodity” of enslaved peoples, whose “fi –
nancial value [as] human chattel touched every facet of their lives.”14 Tubman
may not have been valued aft er her injury in her youth, but she sought to re-
defi ne herself beyond this capitalistic value system that rendered her worth-
less. Indeed, she defi ed the system by depriving it of the very labor on which it
depended and, through her imagined criminalization, forced the issue of her
economic and societal “value.”

In his cataloguing of the commemoration projects of Tubman, biogra-
pher Milton Sernett has identifi ed key representations of the icon: a liberating
“Moses,” a “General Tubman” soldier, a prophetic “Saint and Seer,” and a ma-
ternal “Aunt,” the latter bearing some resemblance to the mammy but more
closely fi tting the stereotype of the black matriarch.15 All these roles empha-
size her able- bodied and able- minded feats; however, the story of Tubman’s
head injury and subsequent disability still undergirds the myths surround-
ing her heroism— myths in which Tubman herself was invested. When she
was hired out to “de wust man in de neighborhood” as a young adolescent,
she received a blow to the head when an overseer had chased a fugitive and
threw a two- pound weight at the person in a neighborhood store, striking
Tubman instead. Tubman almost died from this wound, but she was forced to
labor back in the fi elds, “with the blood and sweat rolling down my face till I

198 Frontiers/2019/Vol. 40, No. 2

couldn’t see.”16 Tubman eventually collapsed and was returned to her enslaver,
while her mother, Harriet Greene, nursed her back to health.

Interestingly, Tubman’s enslaver tried to sell her but failed to interest buy-
ers in his now disabled slave, thus reiterating what Boster notes about the
“unsoundness” that devalued certain bodies in slavery. While the chattel in-
stitution held a premium on able- bodiedness, slavery routinely incapacitated
bondspeople through acts of cruelty that maimed them or through impover-
ished conditions that exposed them to illness and inadequate care. Tubman
was oft en subjected to physical abuse, and her owner shift ed her work to lum-
ber when she could no longer labor in the fi elds. She subsequently developed
physical strength from sawing logs under the tutelage of her father, Benjamin

Aside from this “strength” that Tubman developed while laboring in lum-
ber, she further complicated her disability through the lens of divinity and
prophecy. She would oft en hear rushing waters and dream powerful visions
during her “sleeping spells.” While the physical symptoms of narcolepsy re-
sembled the sudden and unexpected incursion of sleep, which may cause puz-
zlement to the observer, the better known occurrence of epileptic “fi ts” that
caused the body to shake violently induced more of what Boster describes as
fears of “uncontrollable African American bodies,” especially when enslavers
and physicians grew suspicious over “the possibility of being duped by slaves
feigning fi ts.”17

Tubman’s epilepsy did not exhibit such a spectacle of uncontrollability
but nonetheless suggested a disabled body that was controlled less by natural
forces and more by a higher power. Th rough her proclamations of prophetic
dreams and visions— derived from her sleeping spells— Tubman enhanced
her disability as a source of empowerment, thus articulating a theology of
liberation based in the radical Christian philosophy of spiritual freedom
and self- possession that emerged from the religious awakening of the 1830s.
Perhaps she followed the lead of other black women religious fi gures of her
era— including Jarena Lee, Zilpha Elaw, Rebecca Cox Jackson, and Sojourner
Truth. Lee and Elaw specifi cally preached to enslaved communities along the
Eastern Shore, and as her biographer Kate Cliff ord Larson argues, it is quite
possible that Tubman heard their sermons and, thereby, was duly inspired by
their example of female spiritual leadership.18 Subsequently Tubman inter-
twines Christian liberation theology and black feminist thought to reconsti-
tute her own disabled body through the divine.

Tubman, like Rebecca Cox Jackson, experienced “out of body” sensations
in her visions. Th at Tubman never lost her way and, as she once boasted,
“never lost a passenger” on the Underground Railroad, testifi es to her power

Hobson: Of “Sound” and “Unsound” Body and Mind 199

of divination. Tubman, as recorded by Bradford— to whom she dictated her
story— participated in the craft ing of her own disembodiment. For example,
she impressed upon Bradford that her ability to escape from slavery derived
from her literal transcendence from the body. As Bradford describes: “She de-
clares that before her escape from slavery, she used to dream of fl ying over
fi elds and towns, and rivers and mountains, looking down upon them ‘like
a bird.’ . . . Th ere is nothing strange about this, perhaps, but she declares that
when she came North she remembered these very places as those she had seen
in her dreams.”19 In presenting herself in fl ight, literally “like a bird,” Tubman
subverted her disabled, raced, and gendered condition by literally elevating
her body via her oral narrative. However, Tubman tells Bradford that when
she didn’t “hab the strength” and loses this superpower ability of fl ight, “‘jes as
I was sinkin’ down, dare would be ladies all drest in white ober dere, and dey
would put out dere arms and pull me ’cross.”20

Th ere is a certain irony here, for though Tubman narrates her story of es-
cape from slavery beyond her body, Bradford’s retelling of her story through
the supernatural and black vernacular speech is designed to contain that very
body through rhetorics of blackness and “quaint” superstitions, not least of
which is the salvation of white ladies in white dresses quite literally dragging
Tubman’s body across the slave state/free state border. What we witness in
these competing narratives of Tubman’s oral storytelling and Bradford’s writ-
ten biography is the tension between Tubman’s reframing of her disability as
power— represented by the visions she experienced from her sleeping spells—
and Bradford’s paternalistic appreciation for Tubman’s “vividness of imagina-
tion seldom equaled in the soarings of the most cultivated minds.”21 As Sernett
observes in these early biographies of Tubman, her spiritual testimony invited
guarded Christian empathy from Bradford, while her posthumous biographer
Earl Conrad outright rejected her supernatural spin, instead fi nding solace in
a medical and secular explanation for her visions, which he believed were the
result of her head injury.22

Tubman’s disability fi ts within the parameters of what Schalk calls the “su-
perpowered supercrip . . . who gains powers aft er a . . . disabling accident.”23
Whether her biographers are comfortable in according her that status, what
is instructive here is Tubman’s own attempts at self- defi nition that reclaims
her body and her mind for herself and for a liberated community. In re-
envisioning her epileptic episodes through the divine, Tubman also imagines
a revolutionary future— whether in dreaming of the landscape she would need
to cross to freedom or in dreaming of her people’s eventual freedom before ar-
riving at the Combahee River.24 As Alexis Pauline Gumbs suggests, “Tubman’s
strange, transformative relationship to dreaming . . . could even usefully dis-

200 Frontiers/2019/Vol. 40, No. 2

place the centrality of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington moment
in the discursive relationship between freedom and dreaming.”25 Tubman thus
aligns with a social justice model that is predicated on what Katie Geneva
Cannon calls the “reimaging” of the salvifi c,26 in which our heroine constantly
reimaged her disabled black body for liberation. Th is is manifest when she
envisioned herself “in glory,” as she once described upon seeing her hands for
the fi rst time when she “crossed dat line to freedom.”27 She would later expand
that vision to encompass a wider community of disabled black bodies, which
she nurtured throughout her years aft er emancipation until her death in 1913.

Tubman’s community- building eff orts post- emancipation culminated in a
fundraising project to build a home for the sick and elderly in Auburn, New
York. Tensions exist between Tubman’s self- presentation of able- mindedness
and able- bodiedness and her own struggles with disability, which framed the
stories she chose to tell through her dictated biographies, penned by Brad-
ford, and in interviews and on lecture circuits. Such stories emphasized her
undefeatable courage, and when she specifi cally addressed her disability—
from the constant headaches that she endured to the narcoleptic seizures that
manifested on occasion— Tubman carefully craft ed her experiences to down-
play any signs of weakness and frailty, thus recalling what Darlene Clark Hine
describes as black women’s “culture of dissemblance,” which “created the ap-
pearance of openness and disclosure but actually shielded their inner lives
and selves from their oppressors.”28

Because Tubman relied on the benevolence of her allies to support her
growing household of relatives and ex- slaves and needed to alleviate her im-
poverished conditions, her expertise in storytelling became a major source for
her fundraising eff orts, both to support her daily livelihood— which included
a variety of entrepreneurial endeavors with her second husband Nelson Davis
in the post- emancipation era— and to contribute to the development of her
home for people with disabilities. Performing under the dominant gaze and
sensitive to her legacy— which had already been undermined when the US
government refused her a veteran’s pension for her service during the Civil
War— she strategically employed the conventions of heroism to contribute to
her own construction of “greatness.” Fully aware of the restrictive systems that
routinely devalued her because of her race, gender, class, and disability sta-
tus, Tubman helped to launch the stories that would contribute to her iconic
status today. Whether at the founding convention of the National Associa-
tion of Colored Women (NACW) in 1896 (where she triumphantly recounted
her Civil War tales as “Mother Tubman” to her black female audience)29 or at
the woman suff rage meeting in Rochester months later (where she was led on
stage by Susan B. Anthony and voiced the soon- to- be famous words, “I never

Hobson: Of “Sound” and “Unsound” Body and Mind 201

ran my train off the track, and I never lost a passenger”),30 Tubman shared
the stories that would cement her legacy as an emancipator. Regardless of the
“disabling” conditions of womanhood and restrictions on black life during
her era, Tubman constantly proved the full citizenship of women and African
Americans through her oral testimony.

Harriet Tubman’s disabled body lends itself to subversive readings, not just
in the way she created a self- contained heroic portrait but also in the ways
that we are invited to reconfi gure it for our own contemporary era. We are
especially invited to imagine Tubman in her fully human and sentient body,
given her overwhelming experiences with pain. One story recounts her agony
when she underwent surgery in Boston at an advanced age in the late 1890s,
due to increased headaches she could no longer withstand. As told to Brad-
ford’s brother, pastor Samuel Hopkins, who received a visit from her at his
Boston home, Tubman described how “my head was giving me a powerful
sight of trouble lately, with achin’ and buzzin’ so I couldn’t sleep at night.”31

How might we sympathize with Tubman having sleepless nights and being
so pained that she was willing to have surgery without anesthesia while she
“mumbled prayers through teeth clenched on the bullet” (much like Civil War
soldiers when they underwent medical amputations)?32 What would it mean
to rescue Tubman from her iconic status and situate her within her embodied
experience of relentless pain and illness? As Margaret Price specifi cally posits,
how can a feminist disability analysis elucidate the desire and pain of the dis-
abled body that must be “witnessed and cared for”?33

Th is becomes an arduous struggle in recognizing Tubman as a vulnerable
fi gure and not just a strong black woman. Moreover, her work toward
the healing and caring for those who were ill or disabled does much to
challenge the more popular stories of Tubman’s gun- toting leadership on the
Underground Railroad, in which she threatened fugitive slaves with her pistol
whenever they showed signs of weakness. Popular tales oft en tout her military
leadership at the Combahee River in South Carolina, a raid that liberated 750
bondspeople during the Civil War. Less touted is her role as a healer when
she was stationed there precisely because, as Bradford notes, she “nursed our
soldiers in the hospitals, and knew how, when they were dying by numbers of
some malignant disease, with cunning skill to extract from roots and herbs,
which grew near the source of the disease, the healing draught, which allayed
the fever and restored numbers to health.”34

Th is healing work continued in freedom and motivated Tubman to promote
her heroic tales through biographies and lecture circuits that simultaneously
raised funds for her project to establish a home for people with disabilities
as well as an infi rmary that she would name in memory of her abolitionist

202 Frontiers/2019/Vol. 40, No. 2

and militant comrade John Brown.35 Her vision for the Harriet Tubman Home
eventually materialized before her death, which allowed her to extend the care
she provided for family members to various ex- slaves, the same vulnerable
community that was callously discarded during slavery. Unfortunately,
Tubman would eventually fall victim to her ageist and ableist society, which
she had resisted through her radical ethic of communal care. As such, the
home fell under management by the local African Methodist Episcopal Zion
Church, and an admission fee was later added, much to Tubman’s chagrin.36
She believed that the home should be free and accessible for the aged and
other people with disabilities.

However, by the time Tubman became sick and poverty- stricken in her old
age, funds had to be raised so that she could pay the admittance fee to her own
home!37 Th at such a fate greeted the great Harriet Tubman should serve as a
cautionary tale across time, as the struggle continues for adequate healthcare
and an ethic for community care and building, a struggle that chafes against
profi t- driven goals. It also reiterates what Eva Feder Kittay calls “our mutual
and inevitable dependency and our inextricable interdependency” on one an-
other, which requires our collective “independence from certain oppressive

Tubman’s death on March 10, 1913, met with great commemorations across
the nation, indeed across the world, and she was buried with full military
honors for her brave service as a Union Army nurse, soldier, and spy— even
though that same military had denied her a pension throughout much of her
life.39 Th at such a pension would have alleviated much of the struggle she
faced against poverty reminds us of the continued devaluation of African
Americans, women, and people with disabilities. When commemorating
Tubman’s life history, it is easy to focus only on the stories of her great courage
and triumphs, but her stories of vulnerability reveal so much more— not of her
failings but of the failings of a society that perpetuates systemic oppressions
upholding racism, sexism, classism, and ableism.

An Icon for Black Feminist Disability Studies

Given Tubman’s own experiences with disability and her advocacy on behalf
of the disabled community, her iconicity serves the interest of black feminist
disability studies. Tyjewski rightly notes how such historical fi gures compli-
cate the binary of the strong black woman/disabled black woman, a view-
point shared by Christopher Bell, who off ers the example of Tubman in his
introduction to the edited volume Blackness and Disability, to posit that the
work of “reading black and disabled bodies is not only recovery work . . . but

Hobson: Of “Sound” and “Unsound” Body and Mind 203

work that requires a willingness to deconstruct the systems that would keep
these bodies in separate spheres.”40 Nonetheless, this binary needs further
interrogation, as disability does not necessarily disappear from the histor-
ical narrative— hence requiring recovery work— so much as it is constituted
within the construction of strong black womanhood. Th e strong black woman
icon is deeply engrained in an ideology of disability.

As Wallace reminds us, Tubman “was the living antithesis of everything
women were supposed to be.”41 On the one hand, strength in a woman con-
strues deviance and abnormality, especially in the context of the antebellum,
Victorian era when Tubman lived, which accepted as normative the weakness
and fragility of womanhood. On the other hand, within the slave system, en-
slaved women’s bodies were routinely valued for their physical and reproduc-
tive labor, oft en viewed since the early slave trade years as having a “naturally”
possessed ability for manual work and “fecundity.”42

Such “strength” precluded black women from entering the “cult of true
womanhood” with its emphasis on ladylike qualities of submissiveness and
dependency. Th ese gendered distinctions demonstrate how race serves as
what Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham calls a “metalanguage,” which has a “pow-
erful, all- encompassing eff ect on the construction and representation of other
social and power relations.”43 Nonetheless, Tubman’s body contradicts ideas
of race, gender, and her own iconicity. Unlike the six- foot- tall Sojourner
Truth— a contemporary of Tubman’s and another icon of the strong black
woman— Tubman was a petite woman who stood fi ve feet tall.

And yet, this petite woman is not what comes to mind when envisioning
the strong black woman revolutionary and gun- toting leader. Neither does
her disability lend itself to spectacle, as her corporeality is rarely analyzed
compared to historical fi gures like Sara Baartman, the “Hottentot Venus” on
“freak show” display for the size of her behind from 1810 to 1815 in London
and Paris, or Joice Heth, an elderly black woman who was the fi rst of P. T.
Barnum’s “freaks” that he advertised in a hoax as George Washington’s
161- year- old nurse maid in 1835. Both these women of African descent framed
the intersectional arguments put forth in Rosemarie Garland- Th omson’s
seminal essay, “Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Th eory,” which
called for the inclusion and recognition of disability as a socially constructed
category of analysis that would “strengthen our understanding of how  .  .  .
multiple systems intertwine, redefi ne, and mutually constitute one another.”44
Its publication helped to launch a recognizable subfi eld in feminist theory—
feminist disability studies. As such, this fi eld of inquiry explores “conceptual
and lived connections between gender and disability .  .  . to make visible the
historical and ongoing interrelationship between all forms of oppression.”45

204 Frontiers/2019/Vol. 40, No. 2

While feminist disability studies in general sought to complicate feminist
theory in ways that push beyond an “add disability and stir” model, Garland-
Th omson frames the conversation with a focus on “freakery,” as embodied
by Baartman and Heth, that “invoked disability by presenting as deformities
or abnormalities the characteristics that marked [these women] as raced and
gendered.”46 However, such an emphasis on freakish fi gures encouraged such
critical race feminist scholars as Nirmala Erevelles to move away “from mere
discursive intervention to deep interrogation of the material constraints”
impacting people with disabilities.47 Such “material constraints” inform
Tubman’s own disabled body.

Violence under slavery led to Tubman’s disabled condition; however, the
ideologies underpinning this system constructed the raced and gendered
spectacles of the bodies of Baartman and Heth. Nonetheless, Tubman’s inge-
nuity on the Underground Railroad occurred simultaneously with the publi-
cation of Types of Mankind,48 which proclaimed the racial inferiority of black
people and included the work of natural scientist Louis Agassiz— a student of
George Cuvier, the infamous anatomist who dissected the brain and genitalia
of Sara Baartman aft er he had acquired her cadaver and compared them to
those of apes. Tubman’s actions disproved this scientifi c racism, and consid-
ering the minimal degrees of separation, it may be useful to situate her his-
tory of disability alongside Baartman’s history to interrogate the dual forces
of chattel slavery and colonialism in perpetuating racist, sexist, and ableist

While women like Baartman and Heth are oft en reduced to their bodies,
and therefore constructed as freaks or disabled, Tubman oft en seems to
transcend the limits of the body in popular representations, as comically
rendered in her superwoman feats in Key and Peele’s comedy sketch on
the Underground Railroad on Comedy Central— in which she performs
incredible acrobatic skills that exhaust her band of fugitives, who fail to keep
up with her. In the construction of her greatness, Tubman’s disabled body is
erased in attempts to craft her as a heroic subject. Irony is at play here when
we contrast this heroic construction with the primary representation of black
bodies from the past and even today.

For instance, during the antebellum period when Tubman lived and
completed the bulk of her emancipatory work as a “conductor” on the
Underground Railroad, ideas concerning the racial inferiority of black people,
as Types of Mankind championed, were inextricably bound to an ideology of
disability. As Boster notes, “Many antebellum ideas about African American
able- bodiedness were intertwined with concepts of racial inferiority and
the natural ‘defectiveness’ that accompanied darker skin.”49 Much like the

Hobson: Of “Sound” and “Unsound” Body and Mind 205

Aristotelian view of the female body as a “mutilated male,” or the perspective
during the medieval period when Europeans viewed Africans as “diseased,”
with black skin interpreted as a sign of “leprosy,”50 the black female body forms
the nexus between these raced and gendered diff erences and, subsequently,
becomes synonymous with the disabled body.

Such disabled black bodies are complicated further when situated in the
construct of “bodymind,” in which, as Price argues, “mental and physical
processes not only aff ect each other but also give rise to each other.”51 Given
the ways that black bodies are devalued for presumptions of racial inferior-
ity, which connects not just to skin color but also to “attributions of mental
incompetence,”52 both Tubman’s embodied experiences and her intellectual
work represent sites of resistance. However, just as her body invites little com-
mentary and theoretical consideration, so too is the possibility of her genius
oft en dismissed, given the superfi cial ways that she is mentioned in various
intellectual histories.

A salient example of this is the way Tubman is oft en misquoted, as Martha
Jones reminds us in a critique of presidential candidate Hillary Rodham
Clinton, who once falsely attributed words to Tubman in her 2008 Democratic
National Convention speech: “Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste
of freedom, keep going.”53 Th is had the eff ect of reducing Tubman to a “symbol
of ‘feminist’ ideas and giving women the right to vote.”54 Even though Clinton’s
goal, in her invocation of Tubman, was mostly to encourage interracial unity
among women aft er a contentious primary season that pitted her against the
eventual fi rst black president Barack Obama— and subsequently re- created a
divide between white women and people of color (including women of color)
in their allegiances to a black male versus white female presidential “fi rst”—
Jones posits Clinton’s appropriation of Tubman as a racial violation in which
“Tubman looked less and less like the intersectional fi gure that black women
had promoted.” And yet Jones fails to elaborate on just how Tubman functions
as “an intersectional fi gure” for black women, given that Tubman is oft en
name- checked without further analysis in black women’s academic works.
We need only look to the same volume featuring Jones’s critique, Toward an
Intellectual History of Black Women, in which Tubman is briefl y mentioned
in the introduction and only because she is coupled with Sojourner Truth as
an example of black women’s historical resistance.55 Considering that Tubman
and Truth are interchangeable and sometimes mistaken for each other, such
invocations simultaneously highlight both her hypervisibility and invisibility.

Much like Tubman, Truth did not read nor write, even though her literary
power manifests in the form of speech acts. However, Truth has benefi tted
from a historical “makeover” when Nell Painter recast her beyond what Mark

206 Frontiers/2019/Vol. 40, No. 2

Reinhardt calls the “ventriloquism” of white abolitionists, who oft en pre-
sented black speech in black folksy forms.56 Th is is most notoriously demon-
strated in Painter’s critique of Frances Dana Gage’s rewriting of Truth’s “Ar’n’t
I a Woman?” speech, which is contrasted with an earlier rendition closer to
the time of Truth’s delivery in 1851.57

Apart from arguing that non- literary fi gures like Truth and Tubman
challenged the perception that “an inability to read and write seemed the
same as ignorance,”58 Painter repositioned Truth for black women’s intellectual
history, which further complicates the ways that Truth’s speech had already
been commodifi ed and interpreted for feminist theory and intellectual
thought. However, while Painter cautions historians and other scholars
to redefi ne the logics of literacy that would dismiss the knowledge base of
historical fi gures who did not produce written texts by their own hand,
Tubman does not benefi t from this argument— in the ways that Truth does
with her celebrated “Ar’n’t I a Woman” speech— since historical records have
oft en reduced Tubman’s speech acts through misquotes and catch phrases.
Whereas Truth’s speech and the writings of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
(1825– 1911) and Harriet Jacobs (1813– 97) capture their historical subjectivity,
Tubman is still discussed mostly as someone about whom others speak, her
“voice” oft en projected by others.

Because of this, our detection of Tubman’s historical voice and agency re-
quires nuance and careful analysis. Indeed, her biographers argue that Tub-
man’s agency is based on her self- protected skill in oral storytelling. As Jean
Humez suggests, “She had the ability to tell a tightly structured, entertaining
story of adventure and quick- witted problem solving that charmed and dis-
armed the listener, thus resisting editorial interference.”59 We might recognize
Tubman’s resistance to her listener’s interference when she retells the story of
the origins of her disability through muted humor and irony. As she remi-
nisced, “I expect that [my] hair saved my life . . . I had a shoulder shawl of my
mistress’s over my head, and when I got to the store I was shamed to go in. . . .
[Th e overseer threw a weight that] struck me in the head and broke my skull
and cut a piece of that shawl clean off and drove it into my head.”60

By recounting her self- consciousness in not having her hair well kept the
day of her head injury— so that she felt compelled to wear a headscarf that, in
hindsight, shielded her from a more lethal blow— Tubman recasts the mean-
ing of her disability through the incongruity of her vanity saving her life, thus
engaging in what Humez describes as “her strong desire to preserve her dig-
nity and integrity in situations where her power to do so was limited.” Th is
skill took on diff erent guises, including her ironic recounting of the ways that
she utilized her sleeping spells to generate impressions of being “half- witted”

Hobson: Of “Sound” and “Unsound” Body and Mind 207

under the dominant white gaze, to conceal the brilliant woman underneath.
In these ways Tubman illuminated resistance strategies that both deployed
and subverted notions of disability, much like the various bondspeople and
fugitives who employed the guise of disability to maneuver their bodies while
under this gaze. Perhaps the most famous example is the fugitive Ellen Craft ,
who not only passed as a white man while posing as “master” to her darker-
skinned husband, William Craft , but created the appearance of an “invalid”
with a broken arm to avoid writing and thus exposing her illiteracy. Such en-
deavors toward the passage to freedom suggest that performances of disability,
as Boster argues, “were an undeniably powerful tool of subversion for antebel-
lum slaves who relied on common emotional reactions to disabled individu-
als, as well as the cultural impetus to conceal or obscure those individuals.”61

Th e ability of Tubman to perform as well as engage in storytelling framed
the powerful episode “Minty,” during the second season of the television series
Underground, featuring Aisha Hinds in the role of Harriet Tubman. Although
this fi ctitious representation contributes to the ventriloquizing of Tubman’s
voice for present- day audiences, Hinds nonetheless suggests, through her
own spiritual testimony, that her body merely served as a “vessel” for that
voice in her televised performance.62 Th is televised episode marks a departure
from Tubman’s debut appearance in the fi nale of the fi rst season, in which
she was more mythical than an actual historical fi gure. Th e show debuted in
2016. Co- creating it with Misha Green, Joe Pokaski commented on Tubman’s
appearance in the season one fi nale: “I don’t think you tell the story of the
Underground Railroad without touching on its Superman.”63 Th is invocation
of Tubman as superman/superwoman serves as both fi gurative and rhetorical
essentialism to the storyline. Her very fi rst appearance renders her a mere
silhouette, whose face is darkened by the sunlight, thus serving as a phantom
fi gure, one that also carries her trademark rifl e (per her biographers, Tubman
only carried a pistol during her rescue journeys; however, the frontispiece
depicting Tubman with her Civil War rifl e in Bradford’s biography obviously
remains an iconic fi xture).

Called into being as an icon of resistance, Tubman is later revealed in the
fl esh in the second season, in which she is shown toting both an axe (from her
tree- chopping labor) and her renowned rifl e aimed at slave catchers, although
recent biographies suggest she skillfully avoided such confrontations. Inter-
estingly, Tubman avoids using her gun by bargaining instead for the fi nancial
“value” of her fugitive cargo, thus reiterating the “exchangeable commodity”
that Berry argues as the defi nitive existence for human chattel while also em-
phasizing Tubman’s wit and creativity in being prepared for but eventually es-
chewing a violent altercation. Nonetheless, the heart- racing suspense of this

208 Frontiers/2019/Vol. 40, No. 2

scene, played anachronistically yet fi ttingly to pop star Beyoncé’s “Freedom,”
suggests the show’s investments in blurring the lines between fi ction and fact,
and between history and the present.

Th is is reiterated with the “Minty” episode, focused exclusively on
Tubman delivering a speech to an audience of abolitionists, which is framed
at the beginning by Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson’s contemplative song
“Gossypium Th orns,” with the opening lines, “Freedom/Has it ever been
free?” Th e opening shot highlights Tubman grooming herself before a
mirror in preparation for her speech, her scarred back visible underneath a
corset, thus recalling the “tree” on Sethe’s back in Toni Morrison’s Beloved, or
more historically, the ex- slave Gordon, as depicted on the pages of Harper’s
Weekly.64 Th is historical costuming and setting prepare the viewer for the
“story” Tubman presents of her life while also grounding the drama in a
present- day context with a mashup of lines from Bradford’s biography and
other sources65 with present- day references to powerful men wanting to make
this country “great again.” Even the warehouse setting, with a sign advertising
an “auction,” renders Tubman ironically, given that the stage on which she
stands was apparently used for slave auctions. Instead of highlighting Tubman
as a body for sale, however, her voice is the main attraction for her audience,
with her political message on the means of achieving freedom— delivered
directly to the camera— doubling as an urgent call to present- day television
viewers “to be a soldier . . . we can’t aff ord to be just citizens in a time of war.
Th at would be surrender. Th at would be giving up our future and our souls.
Ain’t nobody get to sit this one out, you hear me?”

What makes this episode remarkable is not just the searing performance
of Aisha Hinds and the narrative’s analogous comparison between the past
and the present, but also the resurrection of Harriet Tubman as an intellectual
subject with a political voice and perspective that could impact present- day
concerns. Her usual depiction as superwoman action fi gure takes a backseat
in the “Minty” episode in the interest of honoring a black feminist intellectual
history that we don’t oft en get when invoking Tubman’s memory mostly as an
example of feminist practice instead of feminist theory. Th e show’s creators
even referred to the episode as “Harriet Tubman’s TED Talk,”66 alluding to the
contemporary intellectual speeches made available on the Internet. Th at Tub-
man further describes her slave experience and discusses at length her dis-
ability in this monologue does much to complicate her iconicity in popular
culture and to expand on this historical discourse for black feminist disability

Hobson: Of “Sound” and “Unsound” Body and Mind 209

Cultural Currency and the “Value” of Harriet Tubman

Because of her near ubiquity in the culture, we may deduce that Tubman’s
eff orts during her lifetime to galvanize her heroic status through storytelling
and fundraising initiatives were immensely successful. Yet the meanings that
we attribute to this collective memory need further interrogation, especially
when we connect present- day interpretations with Tubman’s own vision for
her heroic portrait. Aft er all, there is something to be said for Tubman’s even-
tual triumph over other iconic women, such as Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor
Roosevelt, and Rosa Parks, in the “Women on 20s” campaign to mark the up-
coming centennial anniversary in 2020 of the Nineteenth Amendment grant-
ing women the right to vote.

Did most voters in that campaign favor the masculinization and militariza-
tion of Tubman’s status— given the popular stories of her gun- toting lead-
ership on the Underground Railroad and in the Civil War— over the more
feminine roles of suff ragettes and fi rst ladies, or even the feminized charac-
terization of Rosa Parks (an anti- racist feminist activist in her own right, who
is nonetheless reduced in the popular imagination to “tired but fed- up” seam-
stress)? What makes Tubman such an enduring symbol in the pantheon of
“great American womanhood,” despite her status as a formerly enslaved and
disabled black woman— or perhaps because of it? How do visions of diversity
and inclusion coalesce with status quo symbols of Americanness?

Present- day Americans can recall Harriet Tubman, even if only as an icon,
precisely because of her eff orts to make sure that we remember her heroism.
And yet, despite the popular vote and the eventual selection of Tubman by the
Treasury Department for the paper currency, she was still subject to culture
wars, in which conservatives— including then Republican presidential nomi-
nee Donald J. Trump and champion of President Andrew Jackson (already on
the front of the twenty- dollar paper currency and who will appear on the back
of it to make room for Tubman for the future redesign)— decried what they
viewed as out- of- control “political correctness.” Such arguments are not un-
like an earlier time in the nineties when, as Sernett notes, Tubman became the
“iconic embodiment of African American history”67 and the litmus test for
race and gender inclusion in intense multicultural education debates. None-
theless, most opinion polls in 2016 indicated that a sizeable majority of Amer-
icans agreed with the choice of Tubman on the twenty- dollar note. Indeed, a
diff erent political reclamation battle took place in the wake of the Treasury
Department’s announcement, in which some conservatives reframed Tubman

210 Frontiers/2019/Vol. 40, No. 2

as a “gun- toting Republican,”68 while a few progressives questioned the appro-
priateness of a freedom fi ghter appearing on currency that was once used to
buy and sell the bodies of African Americans.69

Beyond these ahistorical arguments were the conversations on social
media that proved unsophisticated in scope. Some voiced concerns that based
on the available portraits of Tubman, she was not “pretty enough” or that
she needed to smile. Given the somber expressions of the iconic men who
already grace US currency, many immediately took off ense at these sexist
expectations, in which Tubman was held to a gendered standard and subject
to racial scrutiny. More than that, ableism complicates the racism and sexism
undergirding these critiques, suggesting that her supposed unattractiveness
was enough to discredit her heroic feats and, hence, the honor that comes with
gracing our US paper currency. Although these arguments seem trivial, they
do share similarities with an earlier time that witnessed what Susan Schweik
calls the “ugly laws” of various city cultures during the late nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries, which suppressed the public appearance of disabled
citizens.70 While these laws refer to a diff erent era, they nonetheless share in
a similar assessment expressed by some twenty- fi rst- century Americans, who
view public fi gures like Tubman as lacking the prerequisite facial features that
are deemed worthy for a woman’s visibility on something as ubiquitous as
paper currency.

Given these aesthetic arguments, some African Americans— especially
through “Black Twitter” and other social media platforms— began circulating
an old Victorian photograph of an elegantly dressed dark- skinned woman,
which was mislabeled “Young Harriet Tubman.”71 Here ableism intertwines
with ageism, considering that the archival recovery work on the part of some
black Internet users— in their quest to fi nd a “more attractive” portrait that
they imagined to be Harriet Tubman— was inspired by disapprovals of the
various mock- up designs of the twenty- dollar bill, as was used on the Women
on 20s campaign website. Indeed, several of the circulating designs on the In-
ternet drew on portraits of an elderly Tubman.

Some African Americans deemed more appropriate the mistaken portrait
dating from 1862 (fi g. 1), which depicts the aristocrat Sara Forbes Bonetta
(1843– 80)— born in West Africa and goddaughter to Queen Victoria. Given
the photographic subject’s youthful appearance and her stylish wardrobe af-
forded by the patronage of the monarch, favoring this image refl ects the typi-
cal concerns about black public presentation and the politics of respectability.
Th is studio portrait is not unlike the iconic photograph of Tubman (fi g. 2)
dating from 1868, which similarly presents her in a standing pose while her
hands rest on a chair. Tubman’s attire is plainer but dignifi ed, and she would

Hobson: Of “Sound” and “Unsound” Body and Mind 211

have been age forty- six, compared to nineteen- year- old Bonetta, having al-
ready completed her work for the Underground Railroad and the Civil War
while emerging as a mature and self- evolved woman who a year later would
marry a considerably younger man. Moreover, unlike the garden chair posi-
tioned in Bonetta’s photograph, with a book placed on its seat— both props
symbolizing her upper- class leisure— the parlor chair that Tubman leans on
bears a jacket and hat, which suggest both service and the more masculine
clothes she may have worn while carrying out her emancipatory and war ac-
tivities. Here Tubman consciously reframes her disabled black body in con-
texts of expansive gender possibilities, productivity, and the transformative
status of formerly enslaved subjects on the verge of full American citizen-
ship— as represented by the parlor setting, a strategically placed book on a
back table with its promise of education, and her refi ned but modest clothing.

In these ways Tubman created a multifaceted understanding of her own
identity and joined her contemporaries, including Truth and Frederick
Douglass (1815– 95), in embracing what Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby calls the
“liberatory power of modernization”72 represented by the recently developed

Fig. 1. Sara Forbes Bonetta, photographed
by Camille Silvy, 1862. National Portrait
Gallery, London.

Fig. 2. Harriet Tubman, photographed by
Harvey B. Lindsley, circa 1871– 1876. Library
of Congress.

212 Frontiers/2019/Vol. 40, No. 2

technology of photography. As former bondspeople, who more than likely
witnessed the dehumanizing and fetishizing portraits of naked black
bodies— as depicted in publications like Types of Mankind and especially
the whipped scars on the backs of slaves, as with the infamous example of
Gordon— they utilized photography during the postbellum years in eff orts
to self- defi ne and self- fashion the emancipated black body. Th at African
Americans today would prefer the colonized subject adorned in fashionable
attire, represented by Bonetta, over the emancipated subject of Tubman in
humbler clothes speaks volumes about our present- day preoccupation with
the body beautiful as well as the ironies of respectability politics that view
liberatory portraits as holding less value than portraits framed by imperialist

Th is is not to draw an arbitrary dichotomy between Bonetta and Tubman.
Indeed, they are both linked in their proximity to Queen Victoria, not just
in Bonetta’s close relationship with the monarch but also in Tubman’s
correspondence with the queen, who— aft er reading Tubman’s biography and
being “pleased with it”— had given her a silk lace and linen shawl along with
a silver medal commemorating her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 in recognition
of Tubman’s deliverance of slaves to freedom in Canada.73 Nonetheless, the
histories of Bonetta and Tubman signify diff erent legacies impacting black
women, which run deeper than photographic subjectivities.


Given the diverse responses to Tubman’s potential appearance on the US cur-
rency, I sometimes entertain the idea of our revered icon miraculously re-
turning to life in our own era. Not the fearless and militant Harriet but the
young pubescent Minty— as vulnerable to the beauty messages that erode the
self- esteem of our young black girls today as she was to the cruelty thrown at
her in the form of a two- pound weight that injured her when she was already
having what she admitted was a “bad hair” day when she wore that headscarf
that may have saved her life. If such a scenario seems absurd, then what do
we make of the conversations that dare to suggest she isn’t “pretty enough” to
adorn our paper money? Despite the various claims made on Tubman’s ico-
nicity, we are still challenged to “value” the qualities that she possessed.

Almost as if to challenge present- day audiences, Tubman resurfaced in
early 2017 when a new photograph of her appeared for auction at New York’s
Swann Galleries.74 Dating from the 1860s, this carte- de- visite depicts Tubman
in a seated position while bedecked in a dark, elaborate bodice that contrasts

Hobson: Of “Sound” and “Unsound” Body and Mind 213

with a light- colored checkered hoop
skirt (fi g. 3). Here her image pres-
ents the “young Harriet Tubman”
some had already longed for, and
her self- fashioned body emanating
elegance and femininity complicates
the enduring icon of strong black

For present- day audiences, this
image contributes to the rewriting
of American history, not just in a re-
imagined visualization of Tubman,
whose image and engraving for the
new twenty- dollar currency is al-
ready underway— despite the change
in a presidential administration that
opposes race- and- gender progressive
politics— but also in the 2017 Ameri-
can Liberty gold coin that imagined
Lady Liberty as an African American
woman for the fi rst time. One can-
not help but detect the infl uence of
the Treasury’s selection of Tubman in
this latest manifestation of national

currency. In other words, we are fi nally reimaging the “great women” in our

Situating black women at the center of American memorial projects— with
Tubman occupying prominent space— does much to challenge the supremacy
of whiteness and masculinity in the culture. Th at such acknowledgments took
place during the transition from the “racial progress” of President Obama to
the “racist backlash” of President Trump highlights how black women’s bod-
ies strategically displace national narratives. Tubman’s greatness— predicated
somewhat on her disability, despite her hypervisibility as a superwoman— is
underscored by her resistance, her retelling, and her reframing of her undeni-
able worth as well as her eff orts to radicalize care and build community.

Nonetheless, as Clare reminds us, “Th ere are so many ways oppression
and social injustice can mark a body, steal a body, feed lies and poison to a
body. . . . But just as the body can be stolen, it can also be reclaimed.”75 Th at
is the legacy of reclaiming Tubman’s corporeality and genius. She constantly

Fig. 3. Portrait of Harriet Tubman, photo-
graphed by Benjamin F. Powelson, circa
1868– 1869. Library of Congress.

214 Frontiers/2019/Vol. 40, No. 2

redefi ned her own body as divine and valued “glory.” Her disabled, raced, and
gendered sensibilities reevaluated her worth beyond the confi nes of systemic
oppressions. Self- liberation requires as much.

Th at said, Tubman’s legacy for a black feminist praxis should move beyond
a celebration of her strength and independence. We must now commemorate
her through her complicated strength and vulnerability as well as her interde-
pendence on a wider community based in caring and sustainable freedoms.
It may be hard to think of Tubman as disabled because she presented her ac-
complishments through an “able- bodied” lens; but then again, her very dis-
ability constituted her strength and her visions for social justice. Her great-
ness is merely an extension of that vision.

Janell Hobson is professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the Uni-
versity at Albany. She received her PhD in Women’s Studies from Emory University
and is the author of two books: Venus in the Dark: Blackness and Beauty in Popular
Culture (Routledge, 2005; 2nd ed. 2018) and Body as Evidence: Mediating Race, Glo-
balizing Gender (SUNY Press, 2012). She has edited a special issue on Harriet Tubman
for the refereed journal Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism. Hobson also
writes and blogs for Ms. Magazine and authored the cover story, “Beyoncé’s Fierce
Feminism” (Spring 2018) for the publication. Her current projects address the inter-
sections of black women’s histories and popular culture.


1. Vivian M. May, “Under- Th eorized and Under- Taught: Re- examining Harriet
Tubman’s Place in Women’s Studies,” Meridians 12, no. 2 (2014): 28– 49, 33.

2. Nell Painter, “Representing Truth: Sojourner Truth’s Knowing and Becoming
Known,” Journal of American History 81, no. 2 (September 1994): 461– 92.

3. Painter, “Representing Truth,” 480.
4. Carolyn Tyjewski, “Complexities and Messiness: Race, Gender, Disability and

the Carceral State (Part I),” Feminist Wire, August 11, 2015, http:// www .thefeministwire
.com /2015 /08 /race – gender – disability – carceral – state – part – i/.

5. Eli Clare, Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation (Boston: South
End Press, 1999), 2.

6. Sami Schalk, “Reevaluating the Supercrip,” Journal of Literary and Cultural Dis-
ability Studies 10, no. 1 (2016): 71– 86, 72.

7. Michele Wallace, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman (1978; repr., New
York: Verso, 1990), 61.

8. Dea H. Boster, African American Slavery and Disability: Bodies, Property, and
Power in the Antebellum South, 1800– 1860 (New York: Routledge, 2013), 34– 35.

Hobson: Of “Sound” and “Unsound” Body and Mind 215

9. David W. Blight, Race and Reunion: Th e Civil War in American Memory
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001), 5.

10. Ellen Samuels, Fantasies of Identifi cation: Disability, Gender, Race (New York:
NYU Press, 2014).

11. To understand how such laws had the eff ect of “disabling” bondspeople, literally
and metaphorically, see Jenifer L. Barclay, “‘Th e Greatest Degree of Perfection’: Dis-
ability and the Construction of Race in American Slave Law,” South Carolina Review
46 (2014): 27– 43.

12. Kate Cliff ord Larson, Harriet Tubman: Bound for the Promised Land— Portrait
of an American Hero (New York: Random House, 2004), 79.

13. Sarah H. Bradford, Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman (Auburn, NY: W. J.
Moses, 1869), 13– 14.

14. Daina Ramey Berry, Th e Price for Th eir Pound of Flesh: Th e Value of the En-
slaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation (Boston: Beacon Press, 2017),

15. Milton C. Sernett, Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, and History (Durham: Duke
University Press, 2007).

16. Larson, Harriet Tubman, 42.
17. Dea Boster, “An ‘Epileptick’ Bondwoman: Fits, Slavery, and Power in the

Antebellum South,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 88, no. 2 (Summer 2009): 271–
301, 294.

18. Larson, Harriet Tubman, 53.
19. Bradford, Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, 79.
20. Bradford, Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman.
21. Bradford, Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, 56.
22. Sernett, Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, and History, 144.
23. Schalk, “Reevaluating the Supercrip,” 81.
24. Harriet Tubman once famously prophesied, “My people are free,” while visiting

the home of Rev. Henry Highland Garnet in New York in 1860, three years before the
Emancipation Proclamation. Cited in Jean M. Humez, Harriet Tubman: Th e Life and
the Life Stories (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2003), 258.

25. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, “Prophecy in the Present Tense: Harriet Tubman, the
Combahee Pilgrimage, and Dreams Coming True,” Meridians 12, no. 2 (2014): 142– 52,

26. Katie Geneva Cannon, “Christian Imperialism and the Transatlantic Slave
Trade,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 24, no. 1 (Spring 2008): 127– 34.

27. Bradford, Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, 19, emphasis in original.
28. Darlene Clark Hine, “Rape and the Inner Lives of Black Women in the Middle

West,” Signs 14, no. 4 (Summer 1989): 912– 20, 912.
29. Paula Giddings, When and Where I Enter: Th e Impact of Black Women on Race

and Sex in America (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1984).

216 Frontiers/2019/Vol. 40, No. 2

30. Cited in Larson, Harriet Tubman, 276.
31. Cited in Larson, Harriet Tubman, 282.
32. Larson, Harriet Tubman, 282.
33. Margaret Price, “Th e Bodymind Problem and the Possibilities of Pain,” Hypatia

30, no. 1 (Winter 2015): 268– 84, 280.
34. Sarah H. Bradford, Harriet Tubman, the Moses of Her People (New York: George

R. Lockwood and Son, 1886), 95.
35. Sernett, Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, and History, 258.
36. Larson, Harriet Tubman, 284– 85.
37. Larson, Harriet Tubman, 282.
38. Eva Feder Kittay, “Centering Justice on Dependency and Recovering Freedom,”

Hypatia 30, no. 1 (Winter 2015): 285– 91.
39. She would not receive a pension until 1899 (Larson, Harriet Tubman, 278– 279).
40. Christopher M Bell, ed., Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and

Cultural Interventions (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2011), 3.
41. Wallace, Black Macho, 151.
42. Jennifer L. Morgan, Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World

Slavery (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), 76.
43. Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, “African- American Women’s History and the

Metalanguage of Race,” Signs 17, no. 2 (Winter1992): 251– 74, 252.
44. Rosemarie Garland- Th omson, “Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist

Th eory,” NWSA Journal 14, no. 3 (Fall 2002): 1– 32.
45. Kim Q., ed., Feminist Disability Studies (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,

2011), 4.
46. Garland- Th omson, “Integrating Disability,” 7.
47. Nirmala Erevelles, “Th e Color of Violence: Refl ecting on Gender, Race, and

Disability in Wartime,” in Feminist Disability Studies, ed. Kim Q. Hall, 117– 35 (Bloom-
ington: Indiana University Press, 2011), 119.

48. Samuel George Morton, Josiah Clark Nott, George R. Glidden et al., Types of
Mankind (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, and Company, 1854).

49. Boster, African American Slavery and Disability, 21.
50. Sander Gilman, Diff erence and Pathology (Ithaca: Cornell University Press,

1985), 101.
51. Price, “Th e Bodymind Problem,” 269.
52. Ashley Taylor, “Th e Discourse of Pathology: Reproducing the Able Mind

through Bodies of Color,” Hypatia 30, no. 1 (Winter 2015): 181– 98.
53. Cited in Martha S. Jones, “Histories, Fictions, and Black Womanhood Bodies:

Race and Gender in Twenty- First Century Politics,” in Toward an Intellectual History
of Black Women, ed. Mia Bay, Farah Jasmine Griffi n, Martha S. Jones, and Barbara D.
Savage, 273– 87 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015), 281.

Hobson: Of “Sound” and “Unsound” Body and Mind 217

54. Jones, “Histories, Fictions, and Black Womanhood Bodies.”
55. Mia Bay et al., eds., Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women, 23.
56. Mark Reinhardt, “Who Speaks for Margaret Garner? Slavery, Silence, and the

Politics of Ventriloquism,” Critical Inquiry 29, no. 1 (Autumn 2002): 81– 119.
57. Painter, “Representing Truth,” 470– 74.
58. Painter, “Representing Truth,” 465.
59. Humez, Harriet Tubman: Th e Life and the Life Stories, 193.
60. Cited in Humez, Harriet Tubman: Th e Life and the Life Stories, 177.
61. Dea H. Boster, “‘I Made Up My Mind to Act Both Deaf and Dumb’: Displays

of Disability and Slave Resistance in the American South,” in Disability and Passing:
Blurring the Lines of Identity, ed. Jeff rey A. Brune and Daniel J. Wilson, 71– 98
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2013), 92.

62. Aisha Hinds, on a plenary panel at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad
Conference, in Cambridge, Maryland, May 19, 2016.

63. Quoted in Bethanie Butler, “Yes, the New Character in the Th rilling ‘Under-
ground’ Finale Is Exactly Who You Th ink It Is,” Washington Post, May 11, 2016, https://
www .washingtonpost .com /news /arts – and – entertainment /wp /2016 /05 /11 /yes – the – new
– character – in – the – thrilling – underground – fi nale – is – exactly – who – you – think – it – is / ?utm
_term = .e9d1a8952f73.

64. “A Typical Negro,” Harper’s Weekly, July 4, 1863, 429.
65. Other famous lines, such as “I had a right to liberty or death,” appear in

Benjamin Drew, A North Side View of Slavery. Th e Refugee: or the Narratives of Fugitive
Slaves in Canada. Related by Th emselves, with an Account of the History and Condition
of the Colored Population of Upper Canada (Boston: J. P. Jewett and Company, 1856).

66. Joe Otterson, “‘Underground’ EP Breaks Down Harriet Tubman’s ‘TED Talk’ in
Minty,” Variety, April 12, 2017, http:// variety .com /2017 /tv /news /underground – harriet
– tubman – aisha – hinds – minty – 1202029319.

67. Sernett, Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, and History, 35.
68. Daniel John Sobieski, “Harriet Tubman Was a Gun- toting Republican,”

American Th inker, April 22, 2016, http:// www .americanthinker .com /blog /2016 /04
/harriet _tubman _was _a _guntoting _republican .html.

69. Danielle Paquette, “Th e Irony of Putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 Bill,”
Washington Post, April 20, 2016, https:// www .washingtonpost .com /news /wonk /wp
/2016 /04 /20 /the – irony – of – putting – harriet – tubman – on – the – 20 – bill/.

70. Susan M. Schweik, Th e Ugly Laws: Disability in Public (New York: NYU Press,

71. Abi Ishola, “Harriet Tubman Doesn’t Need to Look Glamorous on the $20 Bill,”
Beyond Classically Beautiful, May 30, 2016, http:// beyondclassicallybeautiful .com /2016
/05 /harriet – tubman – doesnt – need – look – glamorous – 20 – bill/.

72. Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby, Enduring Truths: Sojourner’s Shadow and Substance
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015), 12.

218 Frontiers/2019/Vol. 40, No. 2

73. Tubman was buried with her silver medal (Larson, Harriet Tubman, 281, 289),
and her silk and lace shawl is on exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of
African American History and Culture.

74. Swann Auction Galleries, “Printed and Manuscript African Americana,” http://
www .swanngalleries .com /auctions /2441 – african – americana.

75. Eli Clare, “Stolen Bodies, Reclaimed Bodies: Disability and Queerness,” Public
Culture 13, no. 3 (Fall 2001): 359– 65, 362– 63.

Copyright of Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies is the property of University of
Nebraska Press and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a
listserv without the copyright holder’s express written permission. However, users may print,
download, or email articles for individual use.

s4264928:26495477:222419:1665180286417:1301199500 2022-10-07T22:04:46+00:00 2022-10-08T04:04:46+00:00


Harriet Tubman
Humez, Jean McMahon.
University of Wisconsin Press




Canada and the United States 1163

tical men who saw the necessity for compromise and
white support in order to advance both themselves and
the interests of their constituencies. In the case of Doug-
lass, Oakes tells us, the path to compromise was long
and torturous. But Oakes’s study is also a compelling
illustration of how compromises can bring hitherto and
seemingly irreconcilable leaders together. The effec-
tiveness of leadership is defined often not by rigid ideo-
logical posturing, but the ability to know when to com-
promise, when concessions are necessary, and how to
navigate delicately between competing interests and


Iowa State University

MILTON C. SERNETT. Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory,
and History. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
2007. Pp. xi, 409. $24.95.

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the subject of
Harriet Tubman surged in popularity among scholars
and biographers after decades of leaving her story to
the realms of juvenile literature, secondary education
textbooks, and popular culture. The year 2003 saw the
publication of not one, but three critical biographies of
Tubman, the first since 1943. Milton C. Sernett’s book
stands, among other things, as a refreshing example of
scholarly generosity and collaborative spirit. Jean H.
Humez, author oi Harriet Tubman: The Life and the Life
Stories (2003), joins Kate Clifford Larson, author of
Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Porirait
of an American Hero (2003), in Sernett’s acknowledge-
ments as key intellectual influences who also shared
with him sources and ideas.

Born into slavery sometime in the 1820s in Maryland,
Tubman freed herself in 1849 and became a leading fig-
ure of the abolitionist movement and enduring symbol
of the Underground Railroad. She risked everything to
return several times to the South to help free others and
served as a nurse and Union scout during the Civil War.
After the war, and for the rest of her long life, she strug-
gled financially while continuing to work for racial and
gender justice from her home in upstate New York until
her death in 1913. Unlike Harriet Jacobs, Frederick
Douglass, and Booker T. Washington (who spoke at the
dedication of a memorial tablet for Tubman in her
adopted community of Auburn, New York, in 1914),
Tubman was illiterate and so could not write a slave
narrative or any subsequent autobiography. Similar to
Sojourner Truth, she did tell her story often—to a bi-
ographer, as a speaker for abolition and woman suf-
frage, and in more intimate settings. Historians have
accounts of these stories but nothing in Tubman’s own
hand. This has made her both harder to grasp as a his-
torical figure and far easier to mythologize, which is
where Sernett steps in.

Sernett’s richly textured study is not foremost a bi-
ography but an analysis of the interplay of individual
and collective history-making, myth-making, and the
cultural memories surrounding Tubman. His goal is

two-fold: to “recover” the historical Tubman from the
dense thicket of legend that engulfs her, and to histori-
cize the very processes of creating a legend. He de-
scribes his study as “primarily about the remembered
Tubman—that is about the myth that draws on the fac-
tual core but is often in tension with it” (p. 3). Tracing
the remembered woman through various incarnations,
from “Minty” and “Black Moses” to “The General” and
“Aunt Harriet,” Sernett asks why Tubman’s life and ac-
tions have been narrated in particular ways over time
by different people searching for a “usable past.” In an-
alyzing the uses to which her history and mythologies
have been aimed, from black liberation and economic
justice to women’s rights and multiculturalism, Sernett
reserves his strongest criticisms for feminist activists
and scholars who sought first to link the living Tubman
and then her memory, heroism, and stature to quests
for women’s liberation. His very timely book ends with
the most recent chapter in the crafting of Tubman’s
story and the riches of 2003, examining, along with the
works by Humez and Larson, Catherine Clinton’s Har-
riet Tubman: The Road to Freedom (2003).

This is an impressively researched and fascinating
book. Sernett considers a vast range of sources to peel
back the many layers of “myth, memory, and history”
around Tubman, including literature, history, biogra-
phy, fine art, music, theater, film and television, mate-
rial culture, and heritage tourism. He is clearly most at
home analyzing and historicizing written texts, and at
times leaves discussions of visual culture and popular
materials less well developed. While those working in
the areas of cultural memory and slavery, abolition, the
Civil War, and Reconstruction will find it particularly
valuable, Sernett’s study ofthe many stories of Tubman
makes significant contributions to deeper understand-
ings of the place of memory in American history and
political culture widely.

University of Connecticut

AARON SHEEHAN-DEAN, editor. The View From the
Ground: Experiences of Civil War Soldiers. Afterword by
JOSEPH T. GLATTHAAR. (New Directions in Southern
History.) Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.
2007. Pp. vi, 266. $40.00.

This book is among the latest entries in the substantial,
still growing literature on the common soldier of the
American Civil War. The literature began with two co-
piously researched works by Bell Irvin Wiley, The Life
of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy
(1943) and The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier
ofthe Union (1952). Together they offered not just the
first but seemingly the last word on the subject. His-
torians did not really extend Wiley’s explorations until
the 1980s, when numerous important works emerged in
quick succession, among them Michael Barton’s Good-
men: The Character of Civil War Soldiers (1981); Gerald
F. Linderman’s Embattled Courage: The Experience of
Combat in the American Civil War (1987); and Reid


To know nothing of what happened before you were born

is to remain ever a child-—Cicero

Harriet Tubman, Pre-Mummification
By Biii Kauffman

Araminta Ross, later known as
Harriet Tubman, is perhaps the

historical personage most familiar to the
latest generation of American school-
children. An American Moses, this pre-
ternaturally wise conductor never lost a
passenger on the Underground Raiiroad.
The bare facts of her life—escape from
slavery, daring raids to liberate other
bondsmeti from servitude, untimeiy fits
of narcolepsy, service as a Union spy in
South Carolina—are extraordinary.

Yet most textbooks faii to convey
any sense of what Harriet Tubman was
really like. If only a good novelist had
known her, the reader murmurs. Well it
just so happens….

Later in life, Tubman made her home
in Auburn, New York, on property that
had belonged to Lincoln’s Secretary of
State, William Seward (an ardent admir-
er of Tubman’s). And it was in Auburn, a
generation removed from the Givii War,
that Harriet met a boy named Samuel
Hopkins Adams.

The fortunate son of a notably cul-
tured upstate New York family, Adams
inherited an ample sense of self-worth
from his grandsires (who became the
subjects of his best book. Grandfather
Stories). Walter Edmonds, author of
Drums Along the Mohawk., once told me
that when Adams visited his home for
the first time, “he went all around the
house…saying what furniture was worth
having and what was bogus. He was a
very forceful old boy.”

When he was a forceful young boy.

Sam was often visited by “Aunt Harriet”
Tubman. His great aunt, Sarah Hopkins
Bradford, had written a pair of books
about Tubman, and it was because of
Aunt Harriet that young Sam and his
friends played slaves and overseers rath-
er than cowboys and Indians.

Tubman would walk the two miles to
the house of Sam’s Grandfather Hop-
kins, who would ask, “Harriet Tubtnan,
will you sing for my grandchildren?”
After a modest demurral, Harriet
“would clap her stringy hands upon her
bony knees, rock her powerful frame,
snap her eyes,” and sing “Go Down,
Moses” in the same great baritone in
which she once sang her song of deliver-
ance to escaping slaves following the
North Star. The children, being chil-
dren, would make impertinent requests
(“Show us your mark. Aunt Harriet”)
and she would reveal the scars left by
the whip.

The dramatics of Harriet Beecher
Stowe left Harriet Tubman unim-
pressed: “When our grandmother once
took her to a matinee of Uncle Tom’s
Cabin” Adams recalled,”she expressed
approval of the theme but was critical
of Eliza’s escape across the ice, declaring
the affair ill-managed and intimating
that she could have handled it better.”
Adams transcribed Tubman’s remarks
in her rich dialect: “‘Bloodhoun’s!’ she
said disdainfully, eyeing the two dis-
consolate mastiffs who appeared in the
dramatic production. ‘I nevah made no
min’ of bloodhoun’s.'”

Although her date of birth remains a
mystery, Harriet Tubman lived close to.

if not beyond, 90 years. She was a fixture
about town, and was often seen sweep-
ing clean the front yard of the Harriet
Tubman Home, which her respectful
neighbors in Auburn endowed as a resi-
dence for indigent African Americans.

As one of the great heroines of our
history, Tubman deserves better than
today’s mummification in dry text-
books. We are lucky that Samuel
Hopkins Adams, the young novelist-
to-be, captured her sly wit and super-
abundant humanity. When Sam and
his cousins asked her “Did you kill lots
of people?” Aunt Harriet disappointed
them by answering no.

“Why not?” they wondered.
“Whuffoh I want to kill folks?”

replied Harriet Tubman. “Nobody nevah
kill me.”


Power to the People: Using Primary Resources to
Teach Social Studies Methods to Pre-Service Teachers

By Karon LeCompte

“Power to the People,” a slogan heard as a

political rallying cry, epitomizes the idea of citizenship.

Citizenship, with its complexities of rights and

responsibilities, has and continues to be central in

American democracy. Citizenship is the power of

people to be full and equal members of our political

community. In some sense, citizenship is an office of

government. It could even be said that it is the highest

office of government because citizens are the source of

government’s authority.’ The National Council for the

Social Studies believes that a primary goal of public

education is to prepare students to be effective and

engaged citizens.

Today, most American children know the history

of African Americans such as Harriet Tubman, Rosa

Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr., people who believed

in equality for African Americans and were willing to die

for their convictions. Students understand that citizenship

for African Americans was a quest, a hard-fought battle

that lasted centuries. However, leaming the complexities

of this quest is a crucial part of the preparation of young

students as future citizens. Students must develop an

understanding of the development of black citizenship in

ways that allow them to practice historical analysis and

interpretation. This kind of historical thitiking allows

students to analyze group and institutional influences on

people, events, and elements of culture in both historical

and contemporary settings.^ Analysis of the development

of black citizenship instills in students the propensity to

keep the power with the people.

History is the study of the past, or the product of

our attempts to understand the nature of change over time.

The traditions of historical scholarship have a long and

complicated past, extending to Greek and Roman culture,

the Judeo-Christian tradition, and Islamic civilization.

National history, a prevalent practice in the nineteenth

century, has given way to a “new cultural history.”^ The

dominant mode for historians today is considerably less

celebratory, more reflective, and more revisionist than

it was a century ago. Today’s historians corroborate

evidence for supporting an argument. Historical research

is a process of taking bits and pieces of primary/

original sources (e.g., unpublished documents, maps,

photographs, etc.) from wherever one may find them. A

historian takes evidence, compiles it, and interprets it to

solve some historical question. Interpreting facts based

on evidence for whatever phenomena occurred in the

past is the focus of historians. Historians amass evidence.

History is not a social science; however, there are many

similarities between social science and historiography

(e.g., both place emphasis on individual interpretation

and reflection).

The basis of history is the assembled evidence.

Where there are no records, there is no history. The

development of citizenship for African Americans does

have a legacy of documents: personal journals, letters,

court decisions, and photographs all hold the promise

of investigation for students. Moreover, historical

documents hold the promise of understanding African

Americans’ quest for equality. A good example of a

primary document that engages learners in historical

thinking is the Constitution of the United States. The

Constitution was created through a series of compromises

that reflected the desire of the slave states to maintain

their “peculiar institution.” The 1787 Constitution

maintained the ideals of liberty and representative


government; it also recognized and protected slavery.

Article I, section 2 states, “Representative and direct

taxes shall be apportioned among the several states

which may be included within this Union, according to

their respective numbers, which shall be determined by

adding to the whole number of free persons, including

those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding

Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons.””

African Americans recognized that these compromises

were significant obstacles in the struggle against slavery

and the quest for full, equal citizenship.

Citizenship education is socialization into the

community of the nation. Americans are people who

proclaim as a nation a belief in equality. Equality was

at the heart of human rights for African Americans who

lived from our antebellum period to modem times.

Appreciation of humanity and quality of life has been

and continues to be the heritage of those who fought

for citizenship for African Americans. Each of us has a

story about our own understanding of citizenship. Mine

is related to teachers and helping them understand the

importance of historical thinking and how students

develop as citizens.

I teach teachers. I touch the future by teaching

social studies methods to people who will be teachers in

elementary classrooms. The quest for black citizenship

provides opportunities for all students to leam the

importance of citizenship. I provide future teachers with

documents conceming the quest of black citizenship,

chances for critical analysis, and subsequent guidance

in creating learning for all students. At the heart of the

discussion exists equality. The legacy of equality for

humans in a political community is not a new theme

or an old one: it is an enduring tension that is inherent

in a democracy. Equality is a condition of democracy

that we must maintain through the students that we

teach. I have focused on conditions of democracy in my

work with teacher education candidates and continue

to reflect upon ways historical research can inform

our understanding of democratic practices. Effective,

engaging citizenship requires knowledge of the “power

of people” in a historical sense. Historical documents

reveal the struggle of African Americans for citizenship.

The narrative of this struggle is a lesson for our future

citizens, no matter what adversities they face.


‘ Center for Civic Education, We the People: The
Citizen and the Constitution, Level 2 (Calabasas, CA:
Center for Civic Education, 2007), 264.

– Adapted from NCSS National Task Force for Social
Studies Standards, National Standards for Social
Studies Teachers (2002).

^ Sam Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other
Unnatural Acts (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University
Press, 2001).

•* Robert P. Green, ed.. Equal Protection and the
African American Experience: A Documentary History.
(Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 2000).

Karon LeCompte, Ph.D., eamed her doctorate
in Curriculum and Instruction from the University
of Texas at Austin. Dr. LeCompte is an assistant
clinical professor at Peabody College of VanderbiU
University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she teaches
undergraduate and graduate courses in social studies
education and courses in sociological aspects of
education. E-mail:


WomenYou Should Know About: Harriet Tubman

Ida B.Weils
Ida B. Wells was born in 1862 and lived the first

three years of her life as a slave. In 1865 the Civil War
ended, and Ida and her family were set free. Ida was the
oldest of seven children and a dedicated student, but
her childhood came to an abrupt end when her parents
and the youngest brother died of yellow fever. ‘When
she was only sixteen years old, Ida became a school
teacher in order to support her five surviving siblings.

Ida’s activism began in 1884 when she was ejected
from the first-class compartment of a train simply
because of the color of her skin. Ida sued the rail-
road company for discrimination and remarkably won
$500—only later to have the decision repealed by a
higher court. After that, Ida started speaKing out against
discrimination and campaigning for African American
rights. She wrote for a magazine called Free Speech and
Headlight, uncovering all sorts of injustices commit-
ted against blacks. She valiantly spoke out against the
biased court systems, unfair laws and the terrible vio-
lence committed against African Americans. She was
so outspoken and controversial that she eventually had
to leave the South to protect herself from becoming a
hate crime victim.

Later in her life, Ida B. Wells joined the women’s
movement and campaigned for women’s right to vote.
When she encountered discrimination among the
white suffragettes, Ida didn’t stop campaigning for
women’s rights, instead she founded the first black
women’s suffrage group. Ida lived to see women get
the right to vote in Î920 and remained an activist for
equality all of her life.

—Katherine Lewis is our student intern, Oregon

Harriet Tubman,well-known forThe Underground
Railroad, helped nearly 300 slaves escape North to free-
dom with her 19 trips north from the South. During
the American Civil War, the governor of Massachusetts
asked Harriet to scout and spy for the Union Army.

The Yankees were not familiar with the Southern
territory where the Civil War was fought. But Harriet
was, and she could lead the soldiers inconspicuously
through it. She was trusted by the blacks whom the
army encountered along the way. They could confide
in Harriet and help guide the troops. Harriet became
invaluable for the Union Army.

Harriet was fearless. Many times she was sent as a
spy to the Rebel iines to figure out the Confederate
defense positions. Often she would get caught in the
crossfire, but she trudged ahead, just like she had on
The Underground Railroad.

As the war continued, Harriet was needed as a
nurse. She began spending her days at the hospital
in Hilton Head, South Carolina, where she dressed
wounds and bathed the sick. Harriet’s reputation for
healing was widespread. She was sent to Florida to help
with a dysentery outbreak (which often caused patient’s
death). Harriet prepared a medicine from the roots of
water lilies, miraculously curing those with the disease.

Harriet was not paid for her services. After risk-
ing her life many times for the Army, she was denied
a pension by the U.S. Congress. To make a living, she
baked nearly fifty pies, a great quantity of gingerbread,
and made two casks of root beer every evening after
her nursing work. Escaped slaves who had joined the
Union Army helped her sell these baked goods.

After the war, Harriet returned to New York to find
her home near foreclosure. She was always taking care
of at least eight people in this tiny house, so she asked
her friend, Sarah H. Bradford, to write her memoirs
in hopes that its publication would pay the mortgage.
Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tuhman was published in
1869. The second edition Harriet, The Moses of her
People (1886) also by Ms. Bradford, helped raise money
for a hospital for aging black folks.

Harriet was focused and concerned for the freedom
and wellbeing of her people. She died on March 10th,
1913 in her nineties. She will never be forgotten.

—ChaduHck Cillenwater, Chestnut Hill Academy, IVA.

March – April 2009 Skipping Stones Page 21



Last Work


Harriet TUbman (1820-1913)
is widely known for ber
passion and leadership in

the Underground Railroad.
However, less is known about her
contributions as a houser—a per-
son committed to raising the quali-
ty of life through improving
availability of and access to shelter
for low-income families and indi-
viduals. This article celebrates
TUbman’s legacy and highlights
her accomplishments in the field
of housing and supportive services.
She was a pioneer in these fields-
much of what she conceptualized
and implemented in the nine-
teenth century is still being prac-
ticed today. Most importantly, her
attitude—that bringing someone to
freedom is not enough, you some-
times have to take care of, empow-
er and teach to take care of
themselves as well—is one worth
thinking about.

Harriet TUbman was bom

Araminta Ross around 1820, on the
Brodas plantation in Dorchester
County, Maryland. She was one of
eleven children bom into slavery to
parents Benjamin Ross and Harriet
Green (Old Rit) in a windowless
cabin on Maryland’s eastern shore.
Wben she was 13, an overseer frac-
tured her skull while attempting to
hit an enslaved man fleeing for
freedom. The injury resulted in a
lifetime disability called somno-
lence, which caused her to abmptly
drift off to sleep at random times.

In 1849, TUbman escaped from
slavery with the assistance of the
Underground Railroad, and sought
asylum in Philadelphia. Once freed,
as was customary for many former
enslaved persons, Araminta
assumed a new name—that of her
mother Harriet. In the early 1850s,
she began working as a conductor
with the Underground Railroad that
helped bring her to freedom. She
reportedly rescued more than 300

J 0 U U A L OF O V

Housing C»
Published by National Association of
Housing and Redevehptnent Officials
Washington, D.C.

Saul N. Ramirez Jr.

Sylvia Gimenez

Liz H e n n e s s y

FranciK “Pete” Hart

Wilson-Pirk Advertising Inc.
Washington, DC 20016
202/363-5438; Fax: 202/966-3767

The Tbwnsend Group
4920 Elm Street, Suite 325
Bethesda, MD 20814
301/215-6710; Fax: 30J/215-7704

630 Eye Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-3736
Tbll Free: 877/866-2476
Fax: 202/289-8181
Web site: w^

tW manuscriiits QIKI etfitond informnlion should be s ^ i to the JmntJ
of Houwg & Commmty Omiopmnt. NAHRO, 630 Eye Slreel,
N.W., Wnshington, OC 20001-3736. Publkotioi in lomd of Housiag
S Cmmnity Oevehpnml does nol constitute an endorsement of any
product, service, a matenal referred to, nor does the publicotlon of on
advertisement represent nn ertdorsement by the MAHRO Officids or fhe
Imnat oi Housing S Commnily Oev^pmenl. All articles represeat
the viewpoints of the oiAors ond ore not necessarily those of the
mogozine oi publisher. Letters to ttie editof will be published at the dis-
cretion of the editor.

Copies of the iomol of Hmmg S ((mwnity Oevehpuml are
Dvoiible in l i m m microfilm, 3Smm microfilm, 105mm microfiche,
ond issue ond orticle cop*es through Unit’ersity of Microfilm? intemofiond
[UMD, 300 North Zeeh Rood, Ann Aibor, Mi 4810i-134fi;

loiinsi of Housing & Contmvty Dmiofmnt (ISSN 153«4BX)
\i p u b t ^ bfflionthly (jonuory, Mrach, May, Jul/, September, ond
November, with Buyer’s Guide puNished in May) by the NotBnol
Associotion of ffousing nnd Redevelopment Officials, i 3 0 Eye Street,
N.W, Wostiington, DC 20001-3736. Tne annual subscription cost for
menters of NAHRO is $2S, which is included in memhersfip dues. Non-
member subscr^tBn: $33 per year. Single copy: S6. Penodicok postage
poid at Woshington, D.C, and odifitiond i rd ing ofhces.

POSTMASHR: Send odckess fonections or ctionges to the louwd of
MaiMig & (omfwnily ik^^opim!, NAHRO, 630 Eye Street, N.W,
Woshngton, DC 20001-3736. Entire contents ©2004 by tfie Nofional
Association of Housbg and Redevelopment Ofhcids. All rights reserved.
Reproduction n whole or in part hy permisswi only.

6 Journal of Housing & Community Development


thmnH also

co^ith^cd the

imporiaitee of

providmg housing

^nd eare while

^ pushing toward




enslaved people during 19 jour-
neys, including some of her own
family members.

Since the Fugitive Slave Act
made it unsafe for former slaves to
live in the United States, Tlibman
used Canada as her base during
those years. She later resettled in
Auburn, N.Y, a major station of the
Underground Railroad. In 1857,
William Seward, governor of New
York and a strong supporter of
TUbman’s, presented her with the
deed to a house in Auburn. 1b avoid
any appearance of charity, she
asked to make a small regular
series of payments, and later paid
off the mortgage from $1,400 in
proceeds from the sale of a book
about her life: Sarah Bradford’s 1869
Scenes in the Life ofHcmiet Tiihnian.

One of TUbman’s most remark-
able accomplishments was escort-
ing her aged parents to freedom.
Shortly after Tlibman moved to
Auburn, her father, then in his sev-
enties, was awaiting trial for help-
ing a fellow enslaved African. So, in
1857, at the age of 37, Harriet engi-
neered the escape of both of her
parents. Biographer Earl Conrad
described the daring plan as an
event in Underground annals. “It
was significant, not only because
rarely did aged folks take to the
Road, but also because Harriet car-
ried them off with audaciousness
and an aplomb that represented
complete mastery of the Railroad
and perfect scorn of the white
patrol. Her performance was that,
at once, of the accomplished artist
and the daring revolutionary.”

TUbman’s rescue of her parents
is perhaps the beginning of the for-
mal documentation of her commit-
ment to housing for older and
less-fortunate persons. She moved
her parents to her home in Auburn,
where she cared for them for near-
ly 30 years (both her mother and
father lived to be centenarians). She
also took in others who found
themselves in need of shelter and

8 Journal of Housing & Community Development


care. In her biography, it was
recorded that she wanted her last
work to be devoted to caring for
those for whom she had already
risked so much.

During the Civil War, TUbman
served the Union Army in various
capacities. Though surviving docu-
ments are unclear about the exact
nature of her involvement, we
know this much: for four years she
worked tirelessly as a nurse, spy,
guide and general supporter of the
soldiers and newly freed men and
women. Though she received no
remuneration for her service dur-
ing these years, she managed to
take care of herself and those she
cared for and about.

After the war, Tlibman returned
to her Auburn home and continued
to care for her aged parents.
Disabled by injuries and somno-
lence, she experienced difficulties
providing for both her needs and
those of her elderly parents as well
as the other kinfolk, refugees, and
boarders who became her depend-
ents. In the preface of Sarah
Bradford’s 1886 biography Harriet,
the Moses of Her People, Tlibman’s
household was described as
“…very likely to consist of several
old black people bad with rheuma-
tiz, some forlorn wandering
woman, and a couple of images of
God cut in ebony. How she man-
ages to feed and clothe herself and
them, the Lord best knows. She has
too much pride and too much faith
to beg.”

In her seventies and suffering
from prolonged and frequent bouts
of somnolence, Tlibman made
another bold move. In 1896, more
than 40 years after escorting her
parents to freedom, TUbman, at the
age of 76, purchased property
across from her Auburn home: two
houses on 25 acres of land for
$1,450 at auction. She obtained the

Site didn’t just
rescue people; she
filso tidied to house

mid eare for the
oppressed and
the mdnerahle.

money through a loan secured by
mortgaging the new land. This she
referred to as her “last work,” Her
target audience was “anyone in
need.” She wanted to provide a
refiige for the young and the old,
the sick and the healthy, and the
blind and the sighted, and to make
meaningfiil the promise of freedom
by caring for those unable to care
for themselves.

During the decade that TUbman
managed the home, she lived next
door, oversaw the property and the
care of its residents, and continued
to support it from her fanning oper-
ations. In other words, she was a
housing manager In this capacity,
she underwent many of the trials
and felt many ofthe triumphs of
her modem day counterparts—the
struggle to find funding, the diffi-
culty of socially integrating resi-
dents from different age groups and
with differing ability levels, the feel-
ing of achievement at being able to
make ends meet or watching the
home grow.

Like many modem-day housing
practitioners, TUbman also recog-
nized the importance of providing
housing and care while pushing
towards self-reliance and avoidance
of unnecessary dependency.
Tlibman found it both prudent and
necessary to engage residents in
self-help activities—today we would
label these efforts self-sufficiency
and micro-enterprise initiatives. She
used her own money to erect a

wash-house and taught freed
women to do laundry to avoid rely-
ing on governmental aid; residents
also helped to grow their own food.
Also, the more able among them
cared for the infirm—a caregiving
approach that has some parallels to
today’s assisted housing and inter-
generational initiatives.

But these tactics were not
enough to support the home finan-
cially, and TUbman soon found her-
self in a funding shortage that is
probably familiar to many housing
practitioners. By the mid-1890s,
TUbman was forced to appeal to her
church, the Thompson Memorial
African Methodist Episcopal (AME)
Zion Church, offering to serve min-
isters in exchange for assistance.
She also continued to receive sup-
port from her white antislavery
supporters. This reportedly caused
some friction with the AME Zion
clergy, who advocated self-help
within the black community. In
1903, Tlibman signed over the land
and her home to the AME Zion
Church, in an agreement that stipu-
lated that she would have a lifetime
deed and that the place would be
maintained as a home for indigent
and aged black people. The home
opened in 1908, and housed 12-15
persons of all ages and conditions.
A joint venture with the church
had made her dream a reality.
Tbbman moved into the home in
1911 and stayed until her death in
1913. She was buried with military
honors and received widespread
acknowledgements of her good
works and compassion.

The Tlibman home is still in
existence today, and is a national
historic landmark that serves as a
tangible reminder of its founder’s
the humanitarian vision. Then-First
Lady Hillary Clinton designated the
Harriet TUbman Home as one of
“America’s TYeasures.”

10 Journal of Housing & Community Development

Lessons Learned
Harriet TUbman’s life is a portrait of
courage and selfless dedication.
After being belped to freedom, she
also belped many otbers, reported-
ly assisting more tban 300 enslaved
people attain tbeir own freedom.
Sbe didn’t just rescue people; sbe
also tried to bouse and care for tbe
oppressed and tbe vulnerable: tak-
ing tbem in, teaching tbem new
skills, identifying tbeir strengtbs,
and providing services aimed at
tbeir particular needs. Most impor-
tantly, Hariett TUbman promoted
self-reliance and self-belp as impor-
tant privileges of freedom.

Harriet TUbman was also an
advocate. Sbe recognized tbe need
to gain support from tbe baves for

tbe needs of tbe bave-nots, position-
ing tbis as a social responsibility
ratber tban a request for bandouts.
Wbile sbe was known to demand
assistance based on principles of
equality and wbat was just and
rigbt, sbe never assumed tbe pos-
ture of “begging.”

Altbougb sbe never asked for
berself, Tlibman never grew weary
of asking otbers to support ber wor-
tby causes. Her life is ricb witb
examples of sucb supporters and
partnersbips, wbicb also transcend-
ed racial, gender, geographical, and
faitb differences. Despite the racial
tensions of ber time, sbe took belp
from everyone, regardless of race,
gender, or faith affiliation—as when
she chose to take tbe assistance of

botb ber wbite supporters and tbe
AME Zion cburcb. Sbe included all
wbo wanted to belp in ber cause.
Otber freedmen, like Fredrick
Douglas and William Still, as well as
Sarab Bradford, wbo autbored two
books about TUbman, were also
invaluable contributors to tbe mis-

Another important supporter
was a Quaker by tbe name of
Tbomas Garrett. Tbe proprietor of a
large sboe establisbmcnt, Garrett
ensured tbat freedom seekers were
fitted witb new sboes for tbeir jour-
ney and provided tbem witb addi-
tional belp to ensure tbeir
well-being. Thougb be was tried
twice for assisting freedom seekers,
and had to sell all bis possessions to

Management. Training, and

Planning Consultants

Modernization Plans

Salary Studies
Physical Needs Review
PHA Policies/Updates
Maintenance Plans
Section a Administrative Plans
Utility Allowance Studies

Energy Audits and Energy Testing
Agency Plans

Home Ownership Studies
Operational Assessments
Agency Troubte Shooting (SEMAP & PHAS)
Training all programs
Rental Integrity
Rent Reasonableness
Operations Franchise


Please call or send RFPs to
Nelson Rodriguez. President

The Nelrod Oompany
3109 Lubbock Avenue, Fort Worth, Texas 76109

(817) 922-9000 Fax (817) 922-9100

Commercial and Residential
Products Include:
cluster Box Units – CBU’s

Vertical Mailboxes

Horizontal Mailboxes

Aluminum Mailboxes

Brass Mailboxes

Free-Standing Mail Centers

Apartment Mailboxes

Residential Mailboxes

Custom Signage

Locker5 – Standard, Vented,

Open Access and Storage

Order Factory Direct!

• In Stock and Ready
for Shipment!


Contact Us Today
for a Free Cataiog!


People Coumilled la Qualily Since 193b ‘

1010 East 62nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90001-1598
Phone: 1-800-624-5269 Fax: 1-800-624-5299

May/June 2005 11


pay his fine at the age of 60, he pro-
claimed his intent to continue to be
of service to those seeking freedom.

Though Harriet TUbman is some-
one that housing and CD practition-
ers would do well to look up to and
emulate, her achievements as a
houser are fairly unknown and
deserve more attention. We can
begin to correct this oversight with
special initiatives that honor her
legacy—awards, scholarships, and
other tributes carrying her name
that recognize individuals and
organizations who have demonstrat-
ed courage and resilience in meet-
ing the housing and supportive

services needs of our communities.
Most importantly, we can do so by
continuing in her tradition of caring
for and about individuals who need
housing and other forms of assis-
tance. She did not look down upon
those in need, but rather offered
them a hand up. As housing and
community development officials
and practitioners, we can be encour-
aged by her strong will, determina-
tion and ultimate success, despite
the tremendous obstacles of her
times. In the words of Catherine
Clinton “…her past remains before,
all around us, and urging us, in her
own words, ‘Keep Going’.”

Harriet TUbman Timelime
1820 Born in Dorchester, Marylond

1844 Morried John Tuhmon

1849 Escaped from slavery to Philodeiphio

1850 Storted as conductor for Underground Railroad

1857 Purchased home in Auburn, New York (six acres) to core for her aged parents

1857 Plonned and executed her parents escape from slavery

1863 Civil War service as a nurse, spy, scout, procticol teacher

1867 John Tubmon (first husband) died

1865 Returned home after Civil War to core for parents

1869 Married Nelson Dovis, disabled Civil War veteran

1871 Benjomin Ross (fother) died

1880 Addressed a Rochester Susan B. Anthony suffragette convention

1890 Applied for Cvil War veteran’s pension

1892 Nelson Davis (second husband) died

1896 Purchased 25 acres of land (or home for aged

1896 Helped to found the National Association of Colored Women (NACW)

1897 Congress authorized small hilt providing small widow’s pension for life

1900 Gronted $20 per month widow’s pension for wartime services

1903 Deeded the land and her home to Thompson Memorial AME Zion Church

1911 Moved to the Tubnran Home to receive core

1913 Died March 10,1913 in Auburn, New York, Harriet Tubmon Home

2003 Posthumously awarded pension balance for military service (Sen. Hillary Clinton)

Selected References
Bradford, S. (1901). Harriet, the
Moses of her people. New York:
George R, Lockwood [reprint)

Clinton, C. (2004). Harriet
TUbman. New York: Little Brown
and Company.

Conrad, E. (1943). Harriet
TUbman. Washington, DC:
Associated Press.

Harriet Tlibman.

Harriet TUbman Home for the
Aged (March 30, 1998).

Harriet TUbman Home
riettubman/ Retrieved 1/15/05

Humez, J.M. (2003). Harriet
TUbman. Madison, Wisconsin:
University of Wisconsin Press.

Janney, R. P (1999). Harriet
Tlibman. Minneapolis, Minn:
Bethany Press.

Martin, E.P & Martin, J.M. (2002)
Spirituality and the Black helping
tradition in social work.
Washington, DC: NASW Press.

Oberlander, H. P & Newbnm, E.
(1999). Houser: Catherine Bauer.
Vancouver: UBC Press.

Sandra Edmonds Crewe,
Ph.D., is NAHRO’s vice
president of professional
development. She is an
associate professor for
Howard University and
teaches in the School of
Social Work and

Groduate School of Arts and Sciences. She is
olso on the NAHRO faculty where she teaches
Resident Leadership. She can be reached at

12 Journal of Housing & Community Development

Lesson Plan Kahlil Chism

Harriet Tubraan: Spy,
Veteran, and Widow

H arriet Tubman is one ofthe most enigmatic figures in Ameri-
can history. Well known for liberating enslaved blacks while
a “conductor” along the Underground Railroad, Tubman was

also a humanitarian, political activist, entrepreneur, and patriot, Tubman
accomplished so much and helped so many during her lifetime that she
has reached folkloric status in the American memory, in part, because the
facts and myths of her life have been retold in over 40 children’s books.
Both ofthe accomplishments for which she is most remembered—her
heroism along the Underground Railroad and her patriotism as a spy for
the Union Army—were clandestine activities. Adding to her mystique
is the fact that Tubman was illiterate, and so left no handwritten records
of her exploits. Some documentary evidence of one phase of her life,
however, survives in the holdings ofthe National Archives and Records
Administration. The two documents featured in this lesson—a general
affidavit of Harriet Tubman relating to her claim for a pension and a let-
ter from Sereno Payne to George Ray, Chairman ofthe Committee on
Invalid Pensions—provide a small window into her career as a soldier,
her life as a wife and widower, and some of her struggles against the
obstacles of sexism and racism (i).

Araminta Ross was born into slavery in either 1820 or 1821, in
Dorchester County, Maryland, to Harriet Ross and Benjamin Green.
At some point during her formative years, Araminta took her mother’s
name, Harriet. In [844, she adopted the surname of her first husband,
a free African American named |ohn Tubman, The couple had only
been married for five years when Harriet decided that she too would
enjoy the taste of freedom, by mnning away. When Harriet decided
to head north along the Underground Railroad, John did not accom-
pany her. After she established abolitionist contacts in New York and
Canada, Tubman returned to Maryland in 1850 to begin rescuing fam-
ily members. In total, she made nineteen round trips from the North
to the South during the remainder ofthe 1850s, leading approximately
300 enslaved African Americans to freedom (2).

Although the activities of the Underground Railroad continued during
the Civil War, Tubman’s efforts focused on the Union cause. By 1861, she was
assigned to Colonel |ames Montgomery’s 2nd Carolina Volunteers, serving
as a nurse, cook, and spy on behalf of tlie Union. From 1861 to 1865, she at-
tended to sick and wounded soldiers in South Carolina, aided “contrabands,”

who were slaves now under Union control, and used her knowledge ofthe
local geography and personal contacts established along the Underground
Railroad to gather valuable information for the Union side (3). Thanks n


doubt to her gender, race, and diminutive stature (she was merely five feet
tall), Tubman was able to move behind Confederate lines and gather infor-
mation without being noticed.

Harriet Tubman became the first woman to lead a group of U.S.
soldiers into combat during Colonel Montgomery’s Combahee River
campaign. Utilizing intelligence gathered about the location of many of
South Carolina’s ammunition depots and storage houses, Tubman led
a contingent of soldiers down the Combahee River on the night of )une
2, 1863, By night’s end, she and her troops had burned down many of
South Carolina’s largest plantations and liberated 750 enslaved biacks.

Having served her country faithfully, Tubman moved back to Au-
burn, New York, at the end ofthe war. She began working on behalf of
all women viath the aid of two of her colleagues, Susan B. Anthony and
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in the political struggle for women’s rights. In
1870 she married again, this time to Nelson Davis, who she had met in
a Union camp in South Carolina, He died in 1888,

Tubman filed for a military pension in 1898 (see Document I, page
50) and went on record publicly stating that, in addition to serving as a
nurse and cook in military hospitals, she served “as commander of sev-
eral men (eight or nine) as scouts during the late war ofthe Rebellion”
(4). Tubman’s affidavit further reveals that she was claiming $1,8


for her three years’ service, and that she served under “directions and
orders of Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, and of several generals”
(5). While Tubman did sign her “X” mark at the bottom ofthe affidavit
after giving her testimony, as was customary for illiterate people con-
ducting business, the majority ofthe affidavit was left blank. Tubman
dictated her statement to Orin McCarty, the Notary Public of Cayuga
County, New York.

In 1898, Sereno E. Payne, a New York congressman who would
become the Republican majority leader from 1899 to 1910, was the
Chairman ofthe Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, It
was while serving in this capacity that Payne wrote a letter about Tub-
man’s ciaim to George Ray, Chairman ofthe Committee on Invalid
Pensions (see Document II, page 51), Payne explained that Tubman

OAH Magazine of History • March 2005 47

was receiving a widow’s pension of eight dollars per month, con-
firmed that she served as a nurse, cook, “and spy during nearly the
whole period ofthe war.” noted to Ray that he felt her claim appeared
“to be a very deserving case, and revealed that, “for all her services she
only received about $200. during the entire war” (6). What Payne’s
letter does not reveal is that Tubman used her two hundred dollars
to set up a wash house, where she assisted freedwomen in learning
a trade. Tubman actually supported herself during the war by buying
food staples, which she used to make baked goods and root beer and
then sold to contrabands. Union troops, and others (7).

A cursory reading of Payne’s letter makes clear that while he felt
“Mrs, Davis” was certainly worthy ofthe $1,800 she was requesting,
he did not feel confident that she would be successful in her approach.
“I thought it much better to introduce a bill for the increase of her
pension,” Payne wrote, “instead of asking a lump sum and trying to
get it in as a claim on account of money equitably due her from the
Government for services” (8). Although Harriet Tubman was entitled
to file both a monetary claim as a veteran and a claim for pension as a
widow of a fallen soldier, there were other factors at play that led Payne
to believe only the latter approach would be successful. Neither ofthe
featured documents provide a definitive answer to why Tubman had
to choose between requesting money as a veteran, which she deserved
for her wartime acts of patriotism and bravery, or as a widow of a vet-
eran. However, one ofthe many attachments that accompanied Sereno
Payne’s letter to George Ray seems to provide a clue.

In addition to including testimonial letters from weil-known indi-
viduals—such as Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell
Phillips, and William H. Seward— to support Tubman’s claims. Payne
enclosed a history of Tubman’s case, “written up by Charles P. Wood.
Hon. deceased of Auburn. N. Y.” (9). According to Wood’s history of
Tubmarfs claim;

That Harriett is entitled to several thousands of dollars pay,
there can be no doubt—the only difficulty seems to be In the
facts that she held no commission, and has not in the regular
way and at the proper times and places, made proof and applica-
tion of and for, her just compensation (10).

Harriet Tubman spent her postwar years in Auburn taking care of
not only her elderly parents, but also many other destitute and needy
men and women. Tubman used what little money she earned from
her speaking engagements, as well as donations from sympathetic
friends, to educate freed men and women, to start clothing drives, and
to establish a convalescent home (11). Congress never approved Harriet
Tubman’s claim for money as a veteran ofthe Civil War. Instead, just as
Payne had suggested. Congress was amenable to raising her widow’s
pension from $8 per month to $25. However, until her death in 1913 at
the age of ninety-three, she only received a $20 per month pension.

National Standards
This lesson plan correlates to the National Standards for History.

Era 5, the Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877), Standard 2A: The

student understands how the resources ofthe Union and Confederacy
affected the course of the war (compare the human resources of the
Union and the Confederacy at the beginning ofthe Civil War and as-
sess the tactical advantages of each side). It also corresponds to Stan-
dard 2B: The student understands the social experience ofthe war on
the battlefield and home front (compare the motives for fighting and
the daily life experiences of Confederate soldiers wi\h those of white
and African American Union soldiers).

The following teaching activities can be conducted in two class peri-

ods (day one for instruction and day two for assessment).

Student Objectives
Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to discuss

Harriet Tubman’s role in the Civil War. compare and contrast the treat-
ment of male and female Civil War veterans, and discuss the difficul-
ties faced by black and female soldiers during the Civil War years.

• Vocabulary Development

Ask students to locate the following terms in the documents and
accompanying article and use classroom resources (dictionary, thesau-
rus, textbook) to define each term: affidavit, allowance, claimant, pen-
sion, equitably, enigmatic, clandestine, mystique, conscripted, cursory,
testimonial, amenable.

• Document Analysis and Discussion
Duplicate and distribute the featured documents on pages 50-5J.

Based upon the students’ examination ofthe documents, use their an-
swers to the following questions as an entry point into discussing the
roles of women and compensation for service in the Civil War

•What types of documents are these (memoranda, letters, forms, etc.)?
•Are the documents dated?
•Why were they created and by whom.^
• Do the documents have unique physical qualities (logos, nota-

tions, handwriting, etc.)?
•Who was the intended audience for these documents?
•What additional questions does the document raise for you?

• Role-Play Activity
Using the documents, article, and additional research, ask students

to take on the role of “The Committee on Invalid Pensions” and hold
a hearing on whether or not Tubman should receive a pension for her
service during the Civil War. Students can fill the roles of Harriet Tub-
man, Sereno Payne, George Ray, and other figures who wouJd have had
an interest in Tubman’s claim.

• Extended Research Activities
I. Assign students the task of researching some ofthe people men-

tioned in the article (Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Fred-
erick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison. Wendell Phillips, and William

48 OAH Magazine of History * March 200s

Seward). Allow them the choice of writing a two-page paper explaining

that person’s relationship to Harriet Tubman or delivering the same

information as a five-minute oral presentation to the class.

2, Ask students to pretend that they lived one hundred years ago

and had an opportunity to interview Harriet Tubman. Encourage them

to generate a list often questions that they would have asked her. Next,

help them conduct Internet and library research to Identify books, mu-

seums, historic sites, scholars, and other resources that exist today that

might help answer their questions. •


1. The documents featured in this article can he accessed online via the Archival

Research Catalog (ARC) datahase of the National Archives and Records

Administration (ARC #s: 306573, and 306574): .

2. The National Women’s History Project. “Timeline, Harriet Tubman.” The

Learning Place, Biography Center,


3. Contrabands were enslaved blacks who either ran away from their owner’s

plantation to Union encampments or were conscripted by the Union army.

4. Genera! affidavit of Harriet Tubman relating to her claim for a pension, ca.

1898. Record Group 233: Records of the U, S. House of Representatives,

1789- . Center for Legislative Archives, National Archives and Records

Administration, Washington, DC,

5. Genera) affidavit of Harriet Thbman.

6. Letter from Sereno E. Payne, Chairman of the Committee on Merchant

Marine and Fisheries, to George Ray, Chairman of the Committee on Invalid

Pensions, on behalf of the claim of Harriet Tubman that she was employed

as a nurse, cook, and a spy, 02/05/1898. Record Group 233: Records of

the U.S. House of Representatives, 1789- . Center for Legislative Archives,

National Archives

and Records Administration, Washington, DC.

7. Benjamin Guterman, “Doing ‘Good Brave Work*,” Prologue: Journal of the

National Archives 32 (Fall 2000); i6i.

8. Letter from Sereno E. Payne to George Ray.

9. Ibid.

10. A history concerning the pension claim of Harriet Tubman written by

Charles Wood, c6/oi/ :888. Record Group 233: Records of the U.S, House

of Representatives, 1789-. Center for Legislative Archives, National Archives

and Records Administration, Washington, DC.

11. Encarta Africana Online. “Harriet Tubman,”


Kahlil Chism is an Education Specialist at the National Archives and Re-

cords Administration in Washington, D.C., where he assists in presenting

workshops and video conferences to a national audience of students, teachers.

and administrators, K-iG. He has written articles and lesson plans for vari-

ous journals, as well as a documentary history of the landmark Brown deci-

sionforThe Unfinished Agenda of Brown v. Board of Education (2004).

a book published by Black Issues in Higher Education magazine.

Building a Lasting Legacy
for the Study of

U.S. History

Since 1907 OAH has promoted U.S.
history teaching and scholarship, while
encouraging the broadest possible access
to historical resources and the most inclu-
sive discussion of our national history.

Longevity is something to commemorate. And
what hetter way to celebrate history than to
provide a legacy for the future?

Your support will help:

• Improve history education at universities, colleges,
and secondary schools by bridging the gaps
between public historians, university and college
professors, and secondary school teachers.

• Promote the dissemination of the best in
historical research and interpretation.

• Support excellence in and access to historical
interpretation. OAH works with the National
Park Service and other organizations to foster
historical understanding by the public,
government, and media.

• Advocate respectflil and equitable treatment of
part-time and adjunct faculty.

• Ensure affordable membership dues for a new
generation of historians.

For more information on ^nual giving or remembering OAH and

its many initiatives in your estate plans.please visit

g[ving> or contact development manager Leslie A. Leasure. e-mail

, phone (812) 856-7311.



OAH Magazine of History • March 2005 49

National Archives and Records Administration

National Archives and f^ecords Aaministration

50 OAH Magazine of History * March 2005

c «


o &


•̂ o

P t

a p.



N.itional Archives and Records Administration

National Archives and Records Administration

OAH Magazine of History • March 2005 51

Calculate the price of your order

550 words
We'll send you the first draft for approval by September 11, 2018 at 10:52 AM
Total price:
The price is based on these factors:
Academic level
Number of pages
Basic features
  • Free title page and bibliography
  • Unlimited revisions
  • Plagiarism-free guarantee
  • Money-back guarantee
  • 24/7 support
On-demand options
  • Writer’s samples
  • Part-by-part delivery
  • Overnight delivery
  • Copies of used sources
  • Expert Proofreading
Paper format
  • 275 words per page
  • 12 pt Arial/Times New Roman
  • Double line spacing
  • Any citation style (APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian, Harvard)

Our guarantees

Delivering a high-quality product at a reasonable price is not enough anymore.
That’s why we have developed 5 beneficial guarantees that will make your experience with our service enjoyable, easy, and safe.

Money-back guarantee

You have to be 100% sure of the quality of your product to give a money-back guarantee. This describes us perfectly. Make sure that this guarantee is totally transparent.

Read more

Zero-plagiarism guarantee

Each paper is composed from scratch, according to your instructions. It is then checked by our plagiarism-detection software. There is no gap where plagiarism could squeeze in.

Read more

Free-revision policy

Thanks to our free revisions, there is no way for you to be unsatisfied. We will work on your paper until you are completely happy with the result.

Read more

Confidentiality Guarantee

Your email is safe, as we store it according to international data protection rules. Your bank details are secure, as we use only reliable payment systems.

Read more

Fair-cooperation guarantee

By sending us your money, you buy the service we provide. Check out our terms and conditions if you prefer business talks to be laid out in official language.

Read more

24/7 Support

Our specialists are always online to help you! We are available 24/7 via live chat, WhatsApp, and phone to answer questions, correct mistakes, or just address your academic fears.

See our T&Cs
Live Chat+1(978) 822-0999EmailWhatsApp

Order your essay today and save 30% with the discount code ESSAYHELP