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Harriet Tubman
Cover of Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman
Imagining a Life
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From the award-winning novelist and biographer Beverly Lowry comes an astonishing re-imagining of the remarkable life of Harriet Tubman, the “Moses of Her People.”Tubman was an escaped...
From the award-winning novelist and biographer Beverly Lowry comes an astonishing re-imagining of the remarkable life of Harriet Tubman, the “Moses of Her People.”Tubman was an escaped...
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  • From the award-winning novelist and biographer Beverly Lowry comes an astonishing re-imagining of the remarkable life of Harriet Tubman, the “Moses of Her People.”
    Tubman was an escaped slave, lumberjack, laundress, raid leader, nurse, fund-raiser, cook, intelligence gatherer, Underground Railroad organizer, and abolitionist. In Harriet Tubman, Lowry creates a portrait enriched with lively imagined vignettes that transform the legendary icon into flesh and blood. We travel with Tubman on slave-freeing raids in the heart of the Confederacy, along the treacherous route of the Underground Railroad, and onto the battlefields of the Civil War. Integrating extensive research and interviews with scholars and historians into a rich and mesmerizing chronicle, Lowry brings an American hero to life as never before.

Excerpts-

  • Chapter One Scene 1.
    Owasco Lake

    There is a quiet dignity about Harriet that makes her superior or indifferent to all surrounding circumstances . . . she was never elated, or humiliated; she took everything as it came, making no comments or complaints.
    —SARAH BRADFORD, HARRIET,  THE MOSES OF HER PEOPLE, 1901

    She is old now, near eighty, and feeble—illness and injury, brutality, oppression, and the constant cut of fear having taken their toll—her condition convincing many people that Harriet Tubman has lived out her time and will soon pass into history and legend.

    They underestimate her stubbornness, the thick shell of the nut of self-preservation tucked into the curl of her heart. In Auburn, New York, where she lives with her brother William Henry Stewart, her presence is almost boringly well known, she having so memorably and so often performed the events of her life—dramatized, danced, sung in shouts, creating the shadows and cries and frosty streams between slavery and freedom—that she has become, even in 1900, only thirty-five years beyond Appomattox, outmoded, overexposed, a relic of another time and a victim of our country’s old and continuing malady, a propensity for willed historical amnesia.

    She has lived in central New York State, in the town of Auburn, for some forty years—more than half her life—even so, many people born since the war’s end don’t know who she is anymore but have to be told, and even then they shrug and wonder, Which war? What slavery? Where? Maryland? And if they do know of her, some of them have wearied of hearing about the terrible days back then and down there. Oh, they think, her again.

    The country is sick of hearing about slavery and the South, the war, the disenfranchisement of black men, the masked white terrorists who ride the night. People want to move on.

    But not all have forgotten. Some are steady friends, and believe.

    Aunt Harriet, as she is often called by those who would idealize her into safe, if nonexistent, kinship, lives a mile south of downtown Auburn, beyond the city tollgate on South Street, where she raises some crops and chickens and, despite her fragility, cares and provides for a number of indigent and infirm people, one of them blind. “Her beloved darkies,” one woman calls them, though not all of them are black. Children, stragglers, panhandlers, the ill, the hapless and disabled, those with no homes or family, people unable to take care of themselves—they wander into her yard, gather beneath her fig tree, and settle in. No one is turned away.

    She has spent a good part, if not most, of her life on the road, alone. Today she is on the move again, on her way out of town, going downstate to visit two old friends.

    An old woman, small, compact, keen-footed. Layered in clothes: dress buttoned to the neck, boots, dark straw hat, flat-brimmed against the sun. Moving at a quick clip.

    Her mother and father and other members of her family once lived with her in Auburn. Most are dead now, but her younger brother, William Henry, born into slavery as Henry Ross, still lives there. William contributes, but he is now seventy years old himself. Everybody in the household is old, infirm, or a child; nobody leaves. And so, ever the caretaker, despite her own age and infirmities, Harriet continues to take to the road to solicit funds from her supporters and to sell eggs and chickens in town in order to keep the operation afloat.

    In one photo, her chin is tucked and she looks up heavy-browed, as if wary. Others in the picture—lined up in a row, posing—look straight...

About the Author-

  • Beverly Lowry is the author of six novels and the nonfiction works Crossed Over and Her Dream of Dreams. The recipient of the 2007 Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award, Lowry teaches at George Mason University. She lives in Austin, Texas.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 8, 2007
    No escaped slave's story grips the American imagination as deeply as Harriet Tubman's, with the melodrama and near mythic grandeur of her frequent returns to slave territory to rescue her family members and scores of others. Since Tubman (1822–1913) never learned to read or write, her story comes second or third hand, offering researchers a challenge and creative nonfiction writers an opportunity. Lowry, a novelist and author of a re-creation of the life of the first African-American woman entrepreneur, Madame C.J. Walker (Her Dream of Dreams
    , 2003), "reimagined" Tubman's life in four parts: her childhood as a field slave called Araminta; her marriage, escape and early "rescues" when she was known as Harriet; her legendary Underground Railroad years when she was called Moses; the Civil War years when she was scout and courier for the Union army (John Brown dubbed her "the General"); and her postbellum work with emancipated slaves. Lowry carries the reader through the milestones without slipping into a morass of detail, through legal thickets (largely created by treating persons as property) and Tubman's encounters with many abolitionists without meandering. Tubman's life invites imagining, and Lowry's reader-friendly book, which "does not pretend to be a work of intense scholarship," presents her story with a novelist's sense of pace, suspense and speculation.

  • Boston Globe

    "A swiftly paced, fascinating read. . . . Lowry has a ripe subject in Tubman."

  • The New York Sun "Harriet Tubman is a biography that goes to the core of character, using the record to create a fully imagined life."
  • The New York Times "Lowry's dramatic retelling seems thoroughly researched. . . . [Her] method produces vivid scenes of Tubman's life."

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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Imagining a Life
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