There have been a lot of books for kids about Harriet Tubman, but there aren’t many full-length biographies for adults.
The first book about Tubman was published in 1869 with help from Tubman herself, who was nearly broke and hoped that sales from the book would help her and her family.
The next biography of Tubman didn’t come out until 1942. That book, Harriet Tubman: Negro Soldier and Abolitionist, was written by a journalist named Earl Conrad. Conrad had a hard time finding a printer because of racial bias against African-American history at the time. Before long, the book was out of print. It hasn’t been back in print since.
Over 60 years went by before another Tubman biography was written. Jean Humez’s book came out in 2003, and Larson and Clinton’s books came out in 2004.
Even though there aren’t many books about Harriet Tubman, I’ve put together a list of what people think are the best.
These books have good reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, they are best-sellers on the subject, and they get good reviews from critics, so people like them. As someone who worked on this website, I can say that these books are among the best on the subject.
Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her People by Sarah Bradford
Originally published in 1869, under the title Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman, this biography was written by Harriet Tubman herself. It was updated in 1886. It is a first-person account of Tubman’s life, from when she was a child until after the War.
When she lived until 1913, the book only covers a small part of her life, but it is very interesting. In this book, we learn about Tubman’s childhood as a slave, her time as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, her work as a nurse in the Civil War, and her efforts to help former slaves learn about their rights.
The book was written to raise money for Tubman, who was poor and often spent what money she had on the less fortunate.
Wendell Phillips and Gerrit Smith were both abolitionists, as well as William H. Seward Jr., the son of Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State William H. Seward Sr. Earl Conrad wrote an article about Tubman that said these people paid for the book’s publishing costs:
Book: Charles P. Wood, a banker who had worked as a recruiter during the war, was supposed to write about Tubman’s time in war in a section that would have been in the book. Instead, it was used as testimony by Seward in order to get Tubman a military pension.
Jean Humez, a fellow Tubman biographer, said this book was “the most detailed biography of Tubman that was written during her life.”
He says that the book came about because Tubman was good at telling stories:
Harriet Tubman told stories, sang songs, and did dramatic re-enactments of many of the events in her life that she thought were important (and also fun). She did this on public platforms, in private gatherings, in formal interviews, and with close friends, family, and strangers for more than 60 years in the North.” When she started telling stories, many of her listeners said that they had a lot of fun. These meetings helped sell the book Harriet Tubman wrote with Sarah Hopkins Bradford three years after the war, which was nearly 100 pages long and called Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman (1869.) This was actually a collection of stories based on interviews and documentary footage that was put together quickly. He made changes to it two more times, in 1886 and 1901. He changed its name to Harriet, the Moses of Her People. Most of the important stories about Bradford’s work on the Underground Railroad and in the war have been preserved in the three different versions of her biography. Whether or not they spoke to Tubman, all later biographers, even if they interviewed Tubman, used at least some of the information (and misinformation) Bradford gave them.
There is another Tubman biographer who agrees with Milton C. Sernett: All the Tubman biographies that came after Bradford’s have been influenced by what she wrote.
Bradford’s account of the Tubman story was first published in 1869, then revised and expanded in an 1886 edition. Almost all subsequent biographical portraits have been influenced by this version, for good or bad.
This is what you should know about Sarah Bradford, who died in 1912. She was a writer who mostly wrote books for kids. Braden was one of the first white people to write about African-American topics and one of the first American women to write children’s books.
Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton
Published in 2004, this book discusses the more well-known events of Tubman’s life as well as the lesser known events such as her role in liberating hundreds of slaves during a raid in the Civil War, as well as the heartbreak of her first marriage and her time as a Civil War nurse.
Clinton said in the book’s preface that there aren’t many historical biographies of Tubman because the academic world hasn’t done a good job of remembering her. Tubman is often talked about, but few sources bother to set the record straight about what she did and how important she was. Clinton says that she wrote the book so that people could see Tubman as a real person as well as an important historical figure.
Clinton’s book was well-received when it came out. Some critics have said that it reads more like an adventure story than a history book.
When Drew Gilpin Faust wrote a review for the New York Times, she didn’t like how well-researched the book was.
In Catherine Clinton’s “Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom,” Tubman’s life is put in the context of slavery and the Civil War. She describes the black Philadelphia in which she found herself after she escaped in 1849, the Underground Railroad’s history, the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, and Tubman’s own experiences of war. Clinton draws on this history to put Tubman’s life in context. People who read Clinton’s work, which includes “Fanny Kemble’s Civil War,” often speculate about things she doesn’t know. She says things like, “One can imagine” or “There is every reason to believe.”
In Publisher’s Weekly, they called the book a “revelation” and praised Clinton for being able to tell fact from speculation.
“Clinton has an amazing ability to put a lot of information into a short paragraph or a single sentence, which makes this ‘first full-scale biography’ of Tubman (1825–1913) a surprise.”
When Clinton talks about Tubman’s private life, he is very careful about separating the speculation from the facts.
In her hands, a well-known story takes on a human dimension, but it doesn’t lose its majesty or power.
Catherine Clinton is a professor of American history at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She is named Denman Professor of American History.
He or she has written or edited a lot of books about American history, like Mrs. Lincoln: A Life, The Plantation Mistress: Women’s World in the Old South, The Devil’s Lane: Sex and Race in the early Southern States.
It’s been a long time since Clinton has been a member of the executive council of the Society of American Historians. He has also been on the Advisory Committee for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Bicentennial Commission, and he is on the advisory boards for Civil War History, Civil War Times, The President’s Cottage and Soldier’s Home and Ford’s Theatre. In November 2016, Clinton was President of the Southern Historical Association, which is a group of people who study history.
Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Heroby Kate Clifford Larson
This book, which was written in 2004, talks about Tubman’s achievements, personal life, and the people who influenced her. The book debunks the myths and misconceptions about Tubman and gives a full picture of the American hero.
During the book’s introduction, Larson says that Tubman has become a mythical figure who is more legend than fact.
To fix this, Larson says that she wanted to write a detailed, historically accurate biography of Tubman so that people could learn more about who she really was:
“The real life of Harriet Tubman is far more interesting than the partly fictionalized biography that most kids know from school.” Why have we been happy with the mythical Tubman, and why has her story stayed in the realm of children’s literature? Even though the myths are based on real events and help to make Harriet Tubman a legend, they do so at the expense of her real life story. The truth about Tubman’s long life, which includes her years as a slave, her family, her spirituality, her accomplishments as a freedom fighter, and her suffrage and community activism, shows that she lived through some of the darkest times in American history and came out on the other side. As a result of her deep love for her family, Tubman worked hard to bring many of her relatives and friends to live in freedom in the North against all odds. The details of her escape missions have been hidden in the history books for generations because they had to be kept secret at the time. There is, therefore, a need to find out more about Harriet Tubman, to separate fact from myth, and to write a more complete and accurate history of her life.
Books about Harriet Tubman use new documents that have been found as well as court records, letters, newspaper accounts, and genealogical records to show how she came to be.
Drew Gilpin Faust, who wrote a review of the book for the New York Times, said that the book is well-researched and gives a lot of information, even though some of the information isn’t always useful:
In their book, Larson and Humez don’t speculate as much as they used to. Instead, they give the reader all of the information they’ve gathered, even if it doesn’t add much to our understanding of Tubman’s life.
She has written a lot of books about women in history, like Rosemary: A Hidden Kennedy Daughter and The Assassin’s Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln.
Race for Freedom: Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad Network Through New York for Afro-Americans was also written by Larson. In New York Life and History, Vol. 36, No. 1, January 2012.
For the National Park Service, Larson is a consultant on the Harriet Tubman Special Resource Study. Larson also serves on the advisory board of the Historic Context on the Underground Railroad in Delaware, Underground Railroad Coalition of Delaware, as well as the National Park Service.
Harriet Tubman: The Life and the Life Stories by Jean Humez
This book was written in 2004 and talks about new facts about Harriet Tubman as well as old stories and legends about her.
The book tries to show the parts of Tubman’s life that aren’t as well known as her public image as an American hero.
In the book’s introduction, Humez says that she wanted to give a good picture of Tubman’s many different traits and that she wanted to encourage people to keep looking for more lost documents and information about Tubman.
In the first part of this book, “The Life,” I give a biographical overview of myself. I want people to think about how the life of a historical woman might have been different if slavery had been abolished in the 1800s. This is how I build on the work of her previous biographers. I have a lot more primary sources to work with than any of them did. A story I tell about her life can’t be 100% correct. When there are still a lot of “facts” that aren’t known, I hope students of African American history and literature and American culture will be inspired to keep looking into them. My own research for this book took more than ten years, and I think there will be many more interesting, lost documents found in libraries and archives in the future. The persistent, imaginative, and lucky explorer will find them.
Drew Gilpin Faust, who wrote a review of the book in the New York Times, said it was one of the most complete biographies of Tubman to date:
Humez, on the other hand, spends less than half of her book on a biographical study of Tubman. The last 200 pages of the book look at the stories and texts that we know about Tubman today. Most of this space is devoted to excerpts from the documents themselves. Humez has put together what she calls Tubman’s “core stories,” which are stories about her life that Tubman told often in public and that people who knew her wrote down. When they’re put together in chronological order, these materials paint a far more vivid picture of her life than any biography could ever do. It’s not just glimpses of Tubman that the reader sees in this book. They see how even her admirers couldn’t understand how a black woman could act like the bravest of men.”
A review of the book in Black Issues Book Review also agreed that it was the most complete Tubman biography to date and that it was well written and well-researched:
She did a lot of research for her book, and her writing is both incisive and easy to understand, making it a great resource for students and anyone else who wants to learn more about history.
She is a professor at the University of Massachusetts who teaches about women. A lot of Humez’s books have to do with gender and race. They include Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Critical Reader and Mother’s First Born Daughter: Early Shaker Writing on Women and Religion.
Harriet Tubman: Negro Soldier and Abolitionist by Earl Conrad
The book, which was written in 1942, tells the story of Harriet Tubman’s life.
A young Conrad met Tubman when he lived in Auburn, New York, which is where Tubman also lived. Conrad wrote the book after meeting Tubman in Auburn, which is where Tubman also lived. Conrad said that when he met Tubman, he became interested in social issues, especially civil rights.
When Humez wrote the introduction to her book about Tubman, she said the best Tubman biography to date was by Conrad.
Since Tubman died, there have been many popular biographies of her for adults and kids. Only a work that did a good job of looking at the original sources has been published so far: General Harriet Tubman by Earl Conrad, which is still the standard biography of Tubman. Even though Conrad’s book is both well-researched and heartfelt, his Harriet Tubman doesn’t seem to be very real to him at all: During the 1930s, Conrad was a journalist who became interested in black history because of her experiences as a labor organizer. She didn’t emphasize her spirituality, but she did emphasize her role as a militant, an African American woman warrior.
One of the other Tubman biographers, Milton C. Sernett, praised Conrad for using primary sources in his own book, but he then called him “a journalist, not a trained historian,” which is unfair because only people who have a PhD can truly write about history or understand it.
One of Conrad’s relatives wrote a review on Goodreads about how she had a hard time getting the book published because publishers thought that people wouldn’t be interested in a book about a black woman.
He wrote this book as a young man, and it was the first that he ever wrote. He came up with the idea for the book when he met Harriet in Auburn, NY, where they both lived. This book was published in 1942, after it was turned down by more than 30 other publishers, but was finally published. All of the publishers said different things about why they didn’t want to publish the book, but they all agreed that a book about a black woman would not be interesting to the general public. It’s crazy to think about how late this book came out. Harriet Tubman died in 1913, and she did most of the work that made her famous in the 1850s.
There aren’t many copies of the book left, and they’re hard to find.
When Earl Conrad died in 1986, he worked for newspapers like the Auburn Advertiser-Journal and the Chicago Defender. He wrote a lot about African-Americans in the South for these newspapers. As time went on, Conrad wrote a lot of books about black history, like Jim Crow America and The Invention of the Negro.
Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory and History by Milton C. Sernett
As a biography, it was written in 2007. It looks at how Harriet Tubman’s public image has changed over time, and it was written in 2007.
Books about Harriet Tubman are compared to the real-life Tubman to see how well they match up.
With this book, Sernett wants to figure out why Tubman has become such a famous American hero:
“The chapters that follow are not going to be about Harriet Ross Tubman in the traditional way that historical biographers write about people.” Instead, I want to know why a person whose life story has been called a “tissue of improbabilities nearing the impossible” by a well-known African American historian has been so popular in the United States, especially in the recent past. However, it is hoped that this effort to separate the “legend” from the “lady” will help people learn more about the woman who has become a cultural icon. This book did two things. It tries to find the “historical” Tubman in the same way that New Testament scholars try to find the real Jesus behind the literary embellishments of the Gospel writers. But it’s mostly about how people remember Tubman, which is to say, how the myth that is based on the facts but is often at odds with them.
The Journal of African American History wrote a review of the book and said it was important to the subject:
Milton C. Sernett’s new book, Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, and History, adds to the Tubman scholarship in a unique and interesting way. He uses Tubman’s life to look at Tubman’s place in U.S. history and how she has “captured the American imagination, especially in the recent past.” Sernett combines the “real Tubman,” the “saintly Tubman,” and the “symbolic Tubman” to make her a “national icon.” She tells us “about ourselves as the American people.”
There is a history and African American studies teacher named Milton C. Sernett who works at Syracuse University. North Star Country: Upstate New York and the Crusade for African American Freedom, African American Religious History: A Documentary Witness, and Bound for the Promised Land: African American Religion and the Great Migration are some of Sernett’s books about African-American history. Abolition’s Axe: Beriah Green, the Oneida Institute, and the Black Freedom Struggle are also some of his books.