Monday, February 27, 2017

Never too Late for Black History Reading

Harriet Tubman
Black History Reading List
Hi Folks,

    It's Jack, your favorite bookstore cat, here again with recommendations for Black History reading. The books on my list are good, and true, any time and not just in February. Since it's Arline's birthday, I'll start with one she wrote. She got most of her information for this from the biography that was written by her friend and neighbor, Sarah Bradford (more about her later), during Mrs. Tubman's life, so a lot of the information in it is from her own words.

    Harriet Tubman led more than 300 slaves to freedom. Through her wits, intelligence, determination, and bravery, she not only changed the course of her own life, but that of her family and countless other African-Americans.

     In the book below you will find a  lot of stories about Harriet Tubman that were taken down from the folks she helped to escape from slavery. But she is almost never mentioned there by name. In this one they use her code name -- "Moses." Whenever they talk of Moses, they are talking about Harriet. Her real name was kept hidden, because there was a price on her head.

    In the winter of 1852, a group of Philadelphia abolitionists dedicated to assisting runaway slaves in their flight to freedom formed a new assistance group to be part of the Underground Railroad—the General Vigilance Committee. William Still, himself a son of slaves, was named its secretary and executive director. Deeply moved by the stories of the fugitive slaves he helped conduct northward, Still took his committee record-keeping to a higher level. He wrote down, in eloquent narrative form, every detail of their stirring, often heartbreaking histories.
    Second only to the great Harriet Tubman in the number of freedom-seeking "passengers" he conducted through the Underground Railroad. 

    Still let the words of former slaves speak for themselves. 
In his journals, he painstakingly reproduced 
vivid accounts he heard from their very lips. 

    Still added excerpts from letters, newspapers, and legal documents to the already arresting biographical sketches, creating unforgettable portraits of the slaves' deadly struggles, brutal hardships, and narrow escapes.
     When the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished, William Still published his journals as The Underground Railroad. It is considered the most complete firsthand account ever written of the men, women, and children who rode the legendary "Railroad" to freedom. This edition includes a new Introduction and 20 illustrations from the original publication.

    Below is the book I mentioned before, by Harriet's friend and neighbor. The first edition was written as a 
pamphlet and sold locally, to help Harriet keep up the home she ran for Civil War veterans and elderly and infirm
former escaped slaves. Later, they expanded on the original, with Harriet adding information about her activities with the Union Army, during the Civil War.

    The book below is the biography written by Harriet Tubman's friend and neighbor, Sarah Bradford. After the Civil War, with the help of her friend William Seward,  Harriet was able buy a house in Auburn, New York. There she ran a combination nursing home, and boarding house for Civil War veterans and elderly or infirm former slaves. She often spoke to groups on the subject of women's rights. Sarah Bradford, a friend, fellow feminist, and neighbor put together a small book of Harriet's memoirs and later expanded on those tales, still with Harriet by her side, telling her everything that had happened.

    How does an illiterate escaped slave, Harriet Tubman, help 300 more fellow slaves escape their plight from the antebellum southern United States? After reading this biography by her friend Sarah Bradford, I'd say she gives God all the credit. Her Christian faith is very prominent and unashamed, which is a shock to this reader 150 years later, but much appreciated. Bradford wrote the book to raise funds for Harriet's ministry in her old age, providing a rest home for aged former slaves. Regarding Tubman's faith, Bradford writes:
    "Harriet's religious character I have not yet touched upon. Brought up by parents possessed of strong faith in God, she had never known the time, I imagine, when she did not trust Him, and cling to Him, with an all-abiding confidence. She seemed ever to feel the Divine Presence near, and she talked with God "as a man talketh with his friend." Hers was not the religion of a morning and evening prayer at stated times, but when she felt a need, she simply told God of it, and trusted Him to set the matter right." p. 14
    Tubman's faith is real and gritty. She doesn't stop at letting us know that not only did she pray for her owner's conversion but also for his death, so that his wickedness against her and her family would end. God responded to the latter prayer!

    I'd also like to mention Runaway Hearts by Terry L. White. That one isn't a history book, or accounts from those who had escaped slavery, but a poetry collection dedicated to those whose hearts love freedom, with some verses inspired by Harriet Tubman's story. It concentrates on the marsh area of Dorchester County, where Harriet would sing out her signal song, "Go Down Moses," and mistreated, fearful slaves would gather to meet her  and follow the road to freedom. 
    Below is an excerpt from a review:

    "I was thrilled by the poetic cadence of the story of Harriet Tubman. Terry White has, once again, shared insight in a way that carries you through the wonderous mist of a time long past. She writes from a space in her heart that only the pure at heart can visit. I was transformed by the experience of traveling the marshes, through the fog, to get a glimpse of strong and tender moments. Terry is truly a gifted writer and reading her works are an adventure you do not want to miss."  --- Sandy Saunders

I hope you will all enjoy reading about Harriet Tubman. I may be just a tom cat, but I do know about courage, about right and wrong, and even about freedom.  I also know a good story when I see one. Enjoy!

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