8 Essential Reads About Harriet Tubman And The Underground Railroad
It's official: Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. The change-up is the result of WomenOn20s' year of campaigning to put a woman's face on U.S. currency.
Since the 19th century, no paper notes in the U.S. have ever featured a woman's face. Only three women have appeared on circulating coins: Susan B. Anthony, on dollar coins produced from 1979 to 1981; Sacagawea, on dollar coins produced from 1999 to the present; and Helen Keller, on the reverse of the 2003 Alabama quarter.
Tubman was born Araminta Harriet Ross in Maryland during the early 1820s. In 1849, she escaped to Philadelphia on the Underground Railroad. Beginning in December 1850, she helped dozens of people reach freedom in the northern states and Canada.
During the Civil War, Tubman worked for the Union Army as a cook, nurse, scout, and spy. She became "[t]he first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, [when] she guided the Combahee River Raid, which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina."
A larger-than-life figure, Tubman absolutely deserves a place on U.S. currency. Placing her on the $20 bill will be a landmark occasion, making her the first woman to appear on our modern paper money, as well as the first African-American woman and third woman of color to grace any U.S. currency.
If you haven't read anything about Tubman or the Underground Railroad since you left school, add the eight books below to your TBR. You've got a few years to read them before the Tubman Twenties come to your local bank, but why not get a head start?
1. Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton
Catherine Clinton weaves together Tubman's many identities — as General, Moses, and Messiah — in Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom.
2. Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson
In Show Way, Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of her family's freedom quilts, and how the tradition was passed down through generations of women.
3. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Cora and Caesar plot their way to freedom from a Georgia cotton plantation in this Colson Whitehead novel.
4. Bound for Canaan: The Epic Story of the Underground Railroad, America's First Civil Rights Movement by Fergus M. Bordewich
Fergus M. Bordewich charts the history, scope, and gravity of the Underground Railroad in this microhistory.
5. When Harriet Met Sojourner by Catherine Clinton
In 1864, Tubman met fellow abolitionist Sojourner Truth. Although there is very little information about their meeting, Clinton tells the story of these two women's legacies in When Harriet Met Sojourner.
6. Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad by Eric Foner
In Gateway to Freedom, Eric Foner recounts stories of Harriet Tubman, Louis Napoleon, and other abolitionists who risked their lives to save others'.
7. The Underground Railroad: Authentic Narratives and First-Hand Accounts by William Still
William Still was a free-born African American who wrote his account of the Underground Railroad movement just after the Civil War ended.
8. Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard
Hidden in Plain View began with a fateful visit to African American quilter Ozella Williams, who related the history of freedom quilts to author Jacqueline L. Tobin over the course of several years.