Insight News

Tuesday
Sep 30th

Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life by Beverly Lowry

E-mail Print PDF

"Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life" by Beverly Lowry
If you're like most people, you walk for exercise, but you grab the closest parking spot at the mall. You go to the gym, but you'll drive five blocks to the store for milk. If you're like most people, the elevator is far preferable to a flight of stairs.
So imagine walking from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia, through swamps and at night. Imagine taking the trip further, to New York and into Canada. Now imagine doing it again and again and again.
If you're like most people, you walk for exercise, but you grab the closest parking spot at the mall. You go to the gym, but you'll drive five blocks to the store for milk. If you're like most people, the elevator is far preferable to a flight of stairs.

So imagine walking from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia, through swamps and at night. Imagine taking the trip further, to New York and into Canada. Now imagine doing it again and again and again.

In the new book "Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life" by Beverly Lowry, you'll read about the woman they called Moses, her life, and the reason she journeyed over land so many times.

Araminta Ross was born early in 1822, the middle child of slaves owned by separate men. When Minty was about two years old, the Ross family was even more fragmented when her sister Linah, the eldest daughter, was the first Ross child to be illegally sold out of state. The sale - and her mother's subsequent mourning - shaped Minty into the person she became.

Documents say, and her own recollections confirm, that little Minty was a strong-willed, quick-witted child. When she was a teenager, however, Araminta Ross suffered a severe head injury that changed her personality and her life. After she recovered, Lowry says Minty was never the same. She fell asleep for minutes at a time, often in mid-sentence. She began to have "visions" and she claimed that God spoke directly to her.

In her young adulthood, after her first marriage and after she took the name Harriet Tubman, she listened to the voice and fled north to freedom.

But Harriet Tubman's story didn't end there. In a time when a ten-mile trip took better than half a day, Tubman journeyed countless times from New York and Canada to Maryland and back. Guided by the voices she heeded and the North Star, walked into history by leading over 300 people - including many of her own family members - to freedom.

I liked "Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life", but perhaps the key to enjoying it is to focus on one word in the title: imagining. Because Tubman herself never learned to read or write, biographers have had to piece together bits of oral stories and decades-old books and newspaper articles to tell her life story.

Author Beverly Lowry does a fairly decent job at that, although she's given to fits of flowery prose and dramatic flair that sometimes overshadows the impact of the story she's telling. I enjoyed the sleuthing she did to find hard facts, but I had to keep reminding myself that much of this "biography" was - and Lowry even admits this in her foreword - pure conjecture.

"Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life" starts out slow and, with so many names to keep track of, can be a little confusing. But if you can stick with it, you'll be rewarded with a finely-imagined life of an original American hero. Don't just imagine yourself reading it. Walk out and get it.

"Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life" by Beverly Lowry
c.2007, Doubleday $26.00 / $32.00 Canada 418 pages
 

Recent Comments

Powered by Disqus



Facebook Twitter RSS Image Map

Latest show

  • September 23, 2014
    State Representative Rena Moran (65-A), Verlena Matey-Keke, and Professor Nekima Levy-Pounds.

Business & Community Service Network