The Historical Harriet Tubman

<i>Harriet Tubman</i>

H. Seymour Squyer took this photograph of Harriet Tubman in 1885. At the time, Tubman was 65 years of age, living and working in Auburn, New York. Source: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

“There are two things I’ve got a right to, and these are, Death or Liberty – one or the other I mean to have. No one will take me back alive; I shall fight for my liberty, and when the time has come for me to go, the Lord will let them kill me.”

In the early twenty-first century, Harriet Tubman (1822-1913) has become ever more visible in the public imagination. Between 2003-2007, she was the subject of five scholarly biographies: Jean M. Humez’s Harriet Tubman: The Life and the Life Stories; Catherine Clinton’s Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom; Kate Clifford Larson’s Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero; Beverly Lowry’s Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life; and Milton C. Sernett’s Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, and History.

Tubman is best known for her role as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Most Americans know little of her remarkable efforts during the Civil War as a Union spy, scout, and nurse; her important role in fighting for black equality and women’s suffrage; and her dedicated advocacy for the elderly. She was a committed Methodist, guided by her deep faith to engage the world around her and to act as an agent of change.

Quotation: Harriet Tubman to Sarah Hopkins Bradford. Published in Bradford’s Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman (1869), page 21.

The Historical Harriet Tubman