Have you watched the new biopic about Harriet Tubman (appropriately named Harriet)? If you haven’t, you should! If you have, you might be like me – moved to devour anything and everything documenting her life.
It frustrates me that as a (middle-aged) adult, I am still learning about important and pivotal historical figures such as Harriet Tubman. Having grown up in what I can only describe as a culturally non-diverse, rural farm town, my education too lacked diversity. We were not taught about many important points or persons in history class, nor taught from anything other than the white colonial settler’s perspective. Before watching Harriet, did I know who Harriet Tubman was? Yes, in a general sense. Did I know the intricacies of her life story and her incredible accomplishments? Hardly.
Not only does the film give an incredible (and almost entirely) accurate account of much of Tubman’s life and achievements, it also introduces viewers to other important, and possibly overlooked, persons such as Underground Railroad conductor William Still and Reverend Samuel Green. The two men helped Tubman and other slaves make their way to freedom. That’s why movies like Harriet are so important.
In an era where we read pictures first, and children spend hours on YouTube, movies like this are especially important for students who are growing up like I did – with lacking historical education and knowledge.
Now that I’ve seen Harriet and gotten a taste for who this incredible woman was, I’ve begun searching for more information about her life and life on the Underground Railroad. While I continue my search, I thought a list of resources that can be found in the Library might be beneficial for others as well.
Who says illustrated books are just for kids?! I recently checked out this illustrated biography, written by Rutgers University’s Mary Beard Professor of History Erica Armstrong Dunbar, and loved it. In fact, I loved it so much, I’ll probably purchase a copy to keep. The biography is very comprehensive and is made richer by illustrated extras such as Tubman’s family chart and visual infographics (see below).
Harriet Tubman: They Called Her Moses hoopla video I watched this documentary on hoopla (if you have Roku, you can now download the app and watch from your TV) immediately after I finished Harriet, and can highly recommend it. The documentary features commentary from scholars at the Smithsonian Institute and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center as well as early 20th century audio recordings of African American spirituals sung by former slaves (talk about powerful).
Previously, I went on a reading spree about Queen Elizabeth I (and the rest of the Tudor family) and wanted to be sure I chose biographies that were deemed historically accurate. I mean, if I wanted to read fiction, I could just pick up some Philippa Gregory (and have). So, when it came to choosing a biography about Harriet Tubman, I followed the same rule. Sarah Bradford’s was the first and was written with the assistance of Tubman herself. I don’t think you can get much better than that.
For me, it jumped around a bit and had I not had previous knowledge (from the other materials on this list) about Tubman’s life/timeline, I would’ve been really, really confused – however, it is often hailed as one of the best Tubman biographies out there.
This biography is often housed in the teen or young adult section, but I think it can be good for adult readers as well. What I liked about Petry’s Tubman biography is the intricate details it provided about things that the others on this list didn’t include – such as how slaves measured time (by using the sun), what materials their cabins were built of, the schedule of food and clothing rations, and what life during Christmas was like.
I borrowed this graphic novel on hoopla and it did not disappoint, even for me as an adult. It begins with an awesome U.S. map that shows free vs. slave states and routes of the Underground Railroad in 1850. The book begins with Harriet’s life as a young child and follows through to her contributions in the Civil War. Another thing about this book that I greatly enjoyed is the humor that’s infused throughout. Though, that’s not to say that this book doesn’t take the subject matter seriously – because it absolutely does that as well. It’s a great book for young readers to pick up!
This is a nice start for young readers first being introduced to Harriet Tubman. It offers a timeline of Tubman’s life, simple black and white illustrations, and includes informational asides about other subjects such as constitutional amendments, vigilance committees, Quakers and more. What I liked most about this book for kids was that it follows Tubman’s life from the beginning to her final days, whereas many other biographies end after her time in the Civil War.
This is an animated streaming video documentary about Harriet Tubman geared toward children. I haven’t watched this one, but it is very well rated with 4.5 stars out of 5. The documentary focuses on Harriet’s faith in God, as it is part of the Torchlighter (Christian) video series.
To use one of my mother’s famous catchphrases, I encourage you to “broaden your horizons,” by picking up a book or watching a film that teaches you something new about our country, the world or a culture not your own. I recently had a friend share that she has been making an effort to read books written by authors from various countries throughout the world – I thought this was a great idea – I think I’ll try that next!