Harriet Tubman

The Road to Freedom

Catherine Clinton     2004     280p     5 x 8

This biography of Tubman traces her roots as a slave, her running away, her years as an abolitionists, then member of the Union Army and life after chattel slavery was abolitioned. Readers will likely be left in awe of Tubman’s immense physical, psychological, emotional, strength: from back-breaking field work (like splitting wood) to trudging through the freezing cold with a group of runaways to planning and carrying out rescues and physically fighting slave owners, slave catchers and police. (Heads up, a number of these anecdotes involve intense violence–a cornerstone of chattel slavery and capitalism).

Here’s one instance of Tubman’s tenancity. With a large abolitionist crowd gathered outside the courthouse, no one was allowed into the runaway slave’s court proceedings, but Harriet, using one of her common old-woman disguises, wormed her way in.

When the judge ruled against Nalle, Nalle immediately ran towards the window and tried to jump to supporters below. Guards prevented this and kept a tight hold on him. From the text, “Whirling out of her shawl and grabbing hold of Nalle, [Harriet] wrenched him free and dragged him down the stairs into the waiting arms of comrades assembled below…. ‘She was repeatedly beaten over the head with policeman’s clubs, but she never for a moment released her hold… until [the police] were literally worn out with their exertions and Nalle was separated from them.'”

Nalle was spirited away to a ferry full of almost 400 abolitionists, but the ferry was overtaken by police and Nalle re-arrested. When Tubman caught up with the crowd, she rallied them to re-storm the courthouse. “‘At last, the door was pulled open by an immense Negro and in a moment he was felled by the hatchet in the hands of Deputy Sheriff Morrison; but the body of the fallen man blocked up the door so that it could not be shut.'” At this point, Harriet and a group of black women rushed the room, grabbed Nalle, pushed him back out and loaded him into a wagon heading out of town–successfully getting him out of the hands of the state and off to ‘freedom’.



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