Harriet Tubman, philanthropist, abolitionist lecturer, Civil War spy, scout, military commander, and the only African American female known to have repeatedly and successfully piloted others to freedom via the Underground Railroad, has been the subject of scores of 20th-century children's and fictional accounts but has not had a scholarly biography since the 1940s. Now, a trio of new works appears, each drawing upon primary sources not used before, applying modern scholarship drawn from the disciplines of women's and African American history, and offering new interpretations and insights into the life, legend, and legacy of this American hero. Road to Freedom, written by university professor Clinton, a scholar of African American women's history, is a concise and readable biography that vividly updates the story of Tubman's life with context and new interpretations based on the latest historical scholarship. It is the best choice for the casual reader and is recommended for academic or public libraries. Humez's (women's studies, Univ. of Massachusetts, Boston; Gifts of Power) offers the most analytic and interpretive treatment, including a biographical sketch, an examination of Tubman's gifted storytelling, and reprints of her stories, sayings, and documents. This combination makes it ideal for scholarly audiences, though it will please any interested reader. It will serve as an invaluable resource for understanding the real Harriet Tubman and is highly recommended for all collections with interests in Tubman, women's studies, Civil War studies, and African American women. Larson's Bound for the Promised Land is the most detailed study to date of Tubman's life, utilizing a variety of primary sources, including local public records, and providing more information on her liberating forays into the South, her relationships within the black community and with powerful white patrons, and new information about her lifelong epilepsy. Larson is a noted Tubman scholar and consultant for national monuments dedicated to Tubman and the Underground Railroad (UGRR). Recommended for any library with a particular interest in the life of Tubman or the UGRR. [Clinton's book was previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/03; the Underground Railroad Freedom Center will open in Cincinnati in Summer 2004.-Ed.]-Theresa McDevitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Well-written bio of the former slave who became an engineer on the Underground Railroad, a loyal supporter of John Brown, a Civil War nurse and spy, and a fiery advocate for women's suffrage. Less hobbled by academic conventions than Kate Clifford Larson's recent Bound for the Promised Land (p. 1262), this new account of "the Black Moses" trots along at a brisk pace. Clinton (Civil War Stories, 1998, etc.) begins in 1908, when the elderly Tubman appears at the opening in Auburn, New York, of the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged and Indigent, her last great public endeavor. (She died five years later-the year Rosa Parks was born.) The author then takes us back to the Eastern Shore of antebellum Maryland, where Araminta Ross, as Tubman was then called, was born sometime between 1815 and 1825. Like all biographers of slaves, Clinton could consult only a slim file on her subject's early years; documentation is particularly scant in Tubman's case because a courthouse fire in the 1850s destroyed important papers. The author assiduously paints the region's cultural background and helps us imagine Tubman maturing within it, but is nonetheless forced to make frequent use of phrases like "little is known" and such words as "perhaps." Clinton persists, giving more or less authentic accounts of Harriet's childhood, her marriage to John Tubman (who did not flee the South with her), her escape to Canada, her numerous and increasingly dangerous returns to help free relatives and others, her rise to prominence in the Underground Railroad, her service to the Union in the Civil War (it took years to extract a $20 monthly pension from the government for her efforts), her many speaking appearances (she wasby all accounts a stunning performer), her struggles to support herself and those who relied on her. A generous biographer, Clinton sometimes accepts too uncritically the many legends that proliferate in the fertile Tubman soil. Still: a clear, concise portrait of "Moses" in her milieux. (8 pp. b&w photos, not seen) Agent: Kris Dahl/ICM