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Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad

Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad

4.5 15
by Ann Petry, Ann Petry

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Award-winning, exciting middle grade introduction to Harriet Tubman, the anti-slavery hero who will be the face of the new $20 bill

The Horn Book called this classic biography of Harriet Tubman an "unusually well-written and moving life of the 'Moses of her people.'" An accessible portrait of the woman who guided more than 300 slaves to


Award-winning, exciting middle grade introduction to Harriet Tubman, the anti-slavery hero who will be the face of the new $20 bill

The Horn Book called this classic biography of Harriet Tubman an "unusually well-written and moving life of the 'Moses of her people.'" An accessible portrait of the woman who guided more than 300 slaves to freedom as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad was an ALA Notable Book and a New York Times Outstanding Book, and includes an index.

Supports the Common Core State Standards

Editorial Reviews

The Horn Book
“An unusually well-written and moving life of the ‘Moses of her people.’’’
The New Yorker
“An evocative portrait.”
The New York Times
“[Told] with insight, style, and a fine narrative skill.”
Chicago Tribune
“A superb biography. The vitality of this remarkable woman leaps from every page.”
Christian Science Monitor
“Ann Petry, writing with sympathy and fidelity, has made Harriet Tubman live for present-day readers of any age. Deeply moving.”
Children's Literature - Tim Whitney
This is a thrilling biography. Born a slave in Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Harriet Tubman often dreamed of freedom. But after risking everything to make her escape, she realized that her own freedom was not enough. Harriet wanted other slaves to experience freedom in the North and became a conductor on the Underground Railroad, devoting her life as a "Moses" to deliver hundreds out of the bondage of slavery. The book does an excellent job of portraying the human side to the legendary Tubman, detailing her life from birth to death. At the end of each chapter, other significant events pertaining to slavery during the time period in Harriet's life are explained in italics. The index makes the book a good reference, while the writing style makes it a good read. 1996 (orig.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
A Trophy Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.18(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.60(d)
1000L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Chesapeake Bay forms the western boundary of the section of Maryland which is sometimes called Tidewater Maryland, sometimes called the Eastern Shore. Here there are so many coves and creeks, rivers and small streams, that the land areas are little more than heads or necks of land, almost surrounded by water.

In these streams the ebb and flow of the tide is visible for miles inland-hence the name Tidewater Maryland.

In 1820, much of the Eastern Shore was heavily wooded. The streams were filled with fish. Game birds -- wild duck and snipe -- abounded in all of the coves and marshes. It could truly be said that every plantation thereabout "at its garden gate, has an oyster-bed, a fishing-bar, and a ducking blind."

The plantation that belonged to Edward Brodas, in Dorchester County, was typical of this section of Maryland, for one of its land boundaries was a river-the Big Buckwater River. It was more or less isolated. The nearest village, Bucktown, was little more than a settlement composed of post office, church, crossroads store, and eight or ten dwelling houses.

There was an air of leisure about the planter's life here. Fishing and hunting were an integral part of it, just as it had been part of the life of the Indians, who had practically disappeared from the Eastern Shore by 1750.

The house in which Edward Brodas lived was very large. There had to be room for his friends, his relatives, as well as his family. Visitors came from long distances, and so usually stayed a month or two before undertaking the journey back home. There were extra rooms for travelers, who carried the proper letters of introduction, because inns andtaverns offered uncertain lodging for the night.

Edward Brodas was known as the Master to his Negro slaves. His house, which the slaves called the Big House, stood near a country road. The kitchen was a small detached building in the rear, known as the cookhouse. Not too far away from the Big House were the stables, where the riding horses and the carriage horses, the grooms and the hostlers were housed.

Close to the stables were the kitchen gardens and the cutting gardens. Beyond these lay the orchards and the barns for the work horses and cows and mules.

The Big House, the cookhouse, the stables, formed a complete unit. Beyond this lay the fields, the clear cultivated land bordered by the forest.

Out of sight of the Big House, but not quite out of hearing, was the "quarter" where the slaves lived.

The quarter consisted of a group of one-room, windowless cabins. They were built of logs that had been cut from the nearby forests. The chinks were filled with mud. These roughhewn logs were filled with sap, and as they dried out, the wood contracting and expanding with changes in temperature, the roofs sagged, the walls buckled. The narrow clay-daubed chimneys leaned as though some unseen pressure were forcing them over. Seen from a distance, these sway-backed cabins seemed to huddle together as though for protection. The fact that they were exactly alike, that they were surrounded by the same barren hard-packed earth, furthered the illusion.

The cabins were exactly alike inside, too. There was a crude fireplace with one or two black iron pots standing in front of it. The hearth was merely a continuation of the dirt floor. When the wind blew hard, smoke came down the chimney, into the room, in puffs, so that the walls were smoke-darkened. Even in summer there was a characteristic smoky smell in the cabins.

The fireplace not only provided heat in winter, it was the source of light, and it was used for cooking. Piles of old worn-out blankets served as beds. There were no chairs; so the occupants of the cabins either squatted in front of the fire or sat on the floor. In the middle of the dirt floor there was a large, fairly deep hole covered over with loose boards. This was the potato hole, where sweet potatoes were stored in winter to protect them from the frost.

Harriet Greene, who was usually called Old Rit, and her husband, Benjamin Ross, both slaves, lived in one of these windowless cabins, in the quarter, on the Brodas plantation. They had several children, some of whom still lived with them. The older children were "hired out" by the master, Edward Brodas, to farmers who needed slave labor but who could not afford to buy slaves.

In 1820,Old Rit had another baby. There was no record made of the date of the birth of this child, because neither Old Rit nor her husband, Ben, could read or write.

Like most people who live close to the land, and who have neither clock nor calendar, they measured time by the sun, dividing it roughly into sunup, sunhigh, sundown. The year was not divided by months but by the seasons. It was separated into Seedtime, Cotton Blossomtime, Harvest, Christmas. One year was distinguished from another by its happenings, its big, memorable occurrences-the year of the big storm, the year of the early frost, or the long drought, the year the old master died, the year the young master was born.

Old Rit and Ben decided that they would call this new baby Araminta, a name that would be ultimately shortened to Minta or Minty. This would be her basket name or pet name, and would be used until she grew older. Then they would call her Harriet. That year would be separated from the others by referring to it as "the year Minty was born.

News, good or bad, traveled swiftly through the quarter. All the slaves knew that Old Rit had another baby. That night they left their own cabins, moving like shadows, pausing now and then to linen, always expecting to hear the sound of hoofbeats, loud and furious, along the road, a sound...

Meet the Author

Ann Petry is also the author of Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad, a 1955 ALA Notable Childrens Book and a 1955 New York Times Book Review Outstanding Book. She lives in Old Saybrook, CT.

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Harriet Tubman 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Harriet Tubman was a great summer reading book this year. When I first picked it up I was expecting to be reading a boring non-fiction book. I was proven wrong, when you really read between the lines, you can not only feel, but experience the true meaning of the historical adventure. I really enjoyed how Ann Petry explained the every second of the story. I can only think of one thing that I didn't like, and that was that Ann Petry made the story a little too vague. I was constantly questioning little details all through the story. A lot of it I was able to figure out if I really had to think about it. Ann Petry did a phenomenal job at explaining the emotions of each slave and how Harriet wanted to save anyone she could. She would constantly be going back south to retrieve more and more slaves on the plantations. She has to learn how to get them all the way to Canada without being caught. Of course, there are always obstacles. Harriet learns how to disguise herself and how to blend with the nature around her. She even learns what time at night is the safest to travel. Her motivation is incredible. Every second of the way, you can feel the sweat running down the slaves' foreheads from running. It is a mind blowing story that I would highly recommend. I think that kids between 8 and 15 should read this story because it can really teach the meaning of perseverance. It can also teach younger kids to appreciate what we have today. We don't have to worry about slavery anymore and trying to escape. Harriet Tubman Conductor on the Underground Railroad is an incredible story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fantastic description Harriet Tubman and the Story of her life. Harriet Tubman Conductor of the Underground Railroad was a pretty ok book. It’s perfect for a person who wants to learn more about American history with slavery, and the underground railroad, but not so perfect for a person who is looking or a non-fiction book with action and adventure in it. The book is basically about the life of Harriet Tubman , where she grew up, and how she became a huge part of the underground railroad. It tells a story about how she took hundreds of enslaved workers and brought them to freedom. A major theme in this book is religion it talks a lot about how she used to God and prayed to God to get her and her passengers to freedom. The author was huge on descriptions she made me feel like I was right beside Harriet. The book was a little too vague on the adventure she took to help the slaves to freedom and it mostly just stated facts at times so it was a little boring to read. But at some points I would be glued to the book wondering what would happen next. You should definitely get this book if you’re into slavery and american history, but if that stuff isn’t really your thing I don’t recommend reading this book. Overall this book was pretty good, but it was not one of my favorites. Other books I would recommend are Rosa Parks My Story and Freedom Train the Story of Harriet Tubman.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Harriet Tubman conductor of the under it is a biography. I thought this book is fun to read and as you are by Ann petry, reading this book you learn about slavery and how bad it was. The setting of the book is on the underground rail railroad in the mid 1800¿s stretching from the south all the way to Canada. The major conflict in this story is Harriet is taking eleven slaves up to Canada. The road ahead is very dangerous. She needs to get them there with out getting caught by slave catchers. Some major conflicts in the story have Harriet herself but she can¿t let them know. Some of the slaves might want to go back but she won¿t let them she handles this situation very subtly. If any of the slaves try to run away she might have to do something drastic. The author in this book uses a style of dialogue. I know this because Harriett tells stories of her life as a slave and life on the Underground Railroad. As she told these stories they asked her questions about her life I would recommend this book to young adults who want to learn about slavery and what it was like
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I surprisingly liked this book by Ann Petry, I recomend it to teachers to make there students read because I am a student and my teacher made me read it. if you are a sixth grader i recomend you read this book and I think you will like it. I also recomend reading Prisoner B3087, it is a historical fiction about the holocaust and is a wonderful book, but has a low lexile score.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
hannahkHK More than 1 year ago
Harriet Tubman: Conductor on The Underground Railroad is a great book that I would highly recommend to everyone. This book highlights and retraces the journey of the fearless Harriet Tubman through her journey of rescuing captive southern slaves and leading them to the free northern part of America. Harriet was a young African American who was born into slavery and with the help of the underground railroad escaped and made a new life for herself in the freedom of North. Because of her incredible journey she felt the need to give back and to help others who were in the same position as she once was. By her unfailing compassion and bravery she managed to help save many African Americans from the chains of slavery. I enjoyed reading this book because it was a suspenseful and entertaining novel that contains many life lessons including: the impact one human can have on a society, the importance of compassion and selflessness, and that we are all equal no matter what race, age, or abilities we may have. The main theme in this book that I thought was most important was the impact that one person could have on a whole society or race in this case. Harriet who was just one person in a group of many managed to help abolish slavery and save many people. This book also did a great job giving an overview of this historic time period without boring the reader or confusing the reader. However, my only complaint is that the character description was brief and somewhat hard to follow. All in all, I would suggest this book to all children and adults because we could all learn a great deal from it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Harriet Tubman was an incredibly inspirational woman whose life struggles and accomplishments were captured perfectly through Ann Petry’s rendition of Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad. From the day that Harriet was born as Araminta Ross, she lived through the tragedy of slavery. She watched people be sold off to work for another owner. She watched fellow slaves dream about someday becoming free. She watched people try to breakthrough and overpower the white slave owners for their freedom, only to get caught and executed. She was a slave for the first 28 years of her life. She had worked on 3 different plantations doing 4 different jobs, been whipped until her back was completely scarred, developed bronchitis which left a permanent huskiness to her voice, and had a weight hurled at her head leaving a scar and permanent head injuries, not to mention being betrayed by her husband who refused to escape with her. Harriet’s only option was to run away or be sold south, so run away she did. She went to this white lady’s house who had offered to help her if she ever needed it. This led Harriet to the Underground Railroad- a network of houses that sheltered runaway slaves until they could make it to the next stop. Harriet managed to lead more than 300 slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad, becoming known as “the Moses of her people.” After this, she went on to work as nurse for a contraband hospital, then for the army as a spy. This book shows the hope, courage, faith, strength, selflessness, and positive attitude she needed to have in order to bring all of those slaves out of slavery and into freedom. It definitely should make the reader realize the pain that many Americans had to go through. Everything comes at a cost, and freedom was worth it to Harriet and hundreds of other African-Americans. It wasn’t fair how people were treated; they wanted so badly to have the rights of everyone else that lives were put at risk. Many saw it better to die than be a slave. The reader just begins to grasp the concept of how hard it actually was for these people, how much pain and torture they had to endure. I liked how strong Harriet was. She never gave up and never let anyone down. She put so many others before herself, learning from every moment. I also liked how much power she represented as a women. She was so motivational to so many people, so inspiring. There’s nothing really I can think of that I didn’t like about the book. I thought it was interesting and captivating. I would definitely recommend this book. It was eye-opening and thought-provoking. It really made me realize how in the midst of all the bad and evil, there really is a lot of good. It only takes one bad person to bring down so many people, but out of those bad experiences rise the good people. It’s a story of hardships powering the strength needed to be a leader. I would recommend any other books with the same concepts, as they only make you want to get up and go help too. I definitely give this book 10 out of 10.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ann Petry's writing reads like a suspenseful novel, yet it is so much more, it's a well researched introduction to a critical period in our nation's history. There are many books on Harriet Tubman, this is the best I have ever read. The author's passion shows clearly in her writing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I 'drank' this book I have read the smaller books but this one realy it's mark on me I'm going to try to start a book reading club at out local nursing home. Bernadette Harper Chantilly, VA
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book in my 7th grade reading class. It is really a good non-fiction book. One of the best things about it is that it is written like a story, not like a uniform biography with an endless feild of boring facts. Another good thing about it was, that at the end of every chapter, there are footnotes telling what was going on in America at that time. Great insight of the Underground Railroad. A wonderfully written triumph for Ann Petry.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If You want a good book,a thirlling book,and an adventure book.read this