Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad

Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad

by Ann Petry


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This quintessential middle grade biography of Harriet Tubman now features a cover by NAACP Image Award winner and Caldecott Honor illustrator Kadir Nelson, a foreword by National Book Award finalist Jason Reynolds, and additional new material.

Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad was praised by the New Yorker as “an evocative portrait,” and by the Chicago Tribune as “superb.It is a gripping and accessible portrait of the heroic woman who guided more than 300 slaves to freedom and who is expected to be the face of the new $20 bill.

Harriet Tubman was born a slave and dreamed of being free. She was willing to risk everything—including her own life—to see that dream come true. After her daring escape, Harriet became a conductor on the secret Underground Railroad, helping others make the dangerous journey to freedom.

This award-winning introduction to the late abolitionist, which was named an ALA Notable Book and a New York Times Outstanding Book, also includes additional educational back matter such as a timeline, discussion questions, and extension activities.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062668264
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/02/2018
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 90,649
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.54(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

Ann Petry was the acclaimed author of the adult novel The Street, a groundbreaking literary work about life in Harlem, which sold over a million copies. She also wrote several books for young readers, including Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad, the story of the courageous and heroic woman who struggled and fought for her people before and during the Civil War.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Chesapeake Bay forms the western boundary of the section of Maryland which is sometimes called Tidewater Maryland, sometimes called the Eastern Shore. Here there are so many coves and creeks, rivers and small streams, that the land areas are little more than heads or necks of land, almost surrounded by water.

In these streams the ebb and flow of the tide is visible for miles inland-hence the name Tidewater Maryland.

In 1820, much of the Eastern Shore was heavily wooded. The streams were filled with fish. Game birds -- wild duck and snipe -- abounded in all of the coves and marshes. It could truly be said that every plantation thereabout "at its garden gate, has an oyster-bed, a fishing-bar, and a ducking blind."

The plantation that belonged to Edward Brodas, in Dorchester County, was typical of this section of Maryland, for one of its land boundaries was a river-the Big Buckwater River. It was more or less isolated. The nearest village, Bucktown, was little more than a settlement composed of post office, church, crossroads store, and eight or ten dwelling houses.

There was an air of leisure about the planter's life here. Fishing and hunting were an integral part of it, just as it had been part of the life of the Indians, who had practically disappeared from the Eastern Shore by 1750.

The house in which Edward Brodas lived was very large. There had to be room for his friends, his relatives, as well as his family. Visitors came from long distances, and so usually stayed a month or two before undertaking the journey back home. There were extra rooms for travelers, who carried the proper letters of introduction, because inns andtaverns offered uncertain lodging for the night.

Edward Brodas was known as the Master to his Negro slaves. His house, which the slaves called the Big House, stood near a country road. The kitchen was a small detached building in the rear, known as the cookhouse. Not too far away from the Big House were the stables, where the riding horses and the carriage horses, the grooms and the hostlers were housed.

Close to the stables were the kitchen gardens and the cutting gardens. Beyond these lay the orchards and the barns for the work horses and cows and mules.

The Big House, the cookhouse, the stables, formed a complete unit. Beyond this lay the fields, the clear cultivated land bordered by the forest.

Out of sight of the Big House, but not quite out of hearing, was the "quarter" where the slaves lived.

The quarter consisted of a group of one-room, windowless cabins. They were built of logs that had been cut from the nearby forests. The chinks were filled with mud. These roughhewn logs were filled with sap, and as they dried out, the wood contracting and expanding with changes in temperature, the roofs sagged, the walls buckled. The narrow clay-daubed chimneys leaned as though some unseen pressure were forcing them over. Seen from a distance, these sway-backed cabins seemed to huddle together as though for protection. The fact that they were exactly alike, that they were surrounded by the same barren hard-packed earth, furthered the illusion.

The cabins were exactly alike inside, too. There was a crude fireplace with one or two black iron pots standing in front of it. The hearth was merely a continuation of the dirt floor. When the wind blew hard, smoke came down the chimney, into the room, in puffs, so that the walls were smoke-darkened. Even in summer there was a characteristic smoky smell in the cabins.

The fireplace not only provided heat in winter, it was the source of light, and it was used for cooking. Piles of old worn-out blankets served as beds. There were no chairs; so the occupants of the cabins either squatted in front of the fire or sat on the floor. In the middle of the dirt floor there was a large, fairly deep hole covered over with loose boards. This was the potato hole, where sweet potatoes were stored in winter to protect them from the frost.

Harriet Greene, who was usually called Old Rit, and her husband, Benjamin Ross, both slaves, lived in one of these windowless cabins, in the quarter, on the Brodas plantation. They had several children, some of whom still lived with them. The older children were "hired out" by the master, Edward Brodas, to farmers who needed slave labor but who could not afford to buy slaves.

In 1820,Old Rit had another baby. There was no record made of the date of the birth of this child, because neither Old Rit nor her husband, Ben, could read or write.

Like most people who live close to the land, and who have neither clock nor calendar, they measured time by the sun, dividing it roughly into sunup, sunhigh, sundown. The year was not divided by months but by the seasons. It was separated into Seedtime, Cotton Blossomtime, Harvest, Christmas. One year was distinguished from another by its happenings, its big, memorable occurrences-the year of the big storm, the year of the early frost, or the long drought, the year the old master died, the year the young master was born.

Old Rit and Ben decided that they would call this new baby Araminta, a name that would be ultimately shortened to Minta or Minty. This would be her basket name or pet name, and would be used until she grew older. Then they would call her Harriet. That year would be separated from the others by referring to it as "the year Minty was born.

News, good or bad, traveled swiftly through the quarter. All the slaves knew that Old Rit had another baby. That night they left their own cabins, moving like shadows, pausing now and then to linen, always expecting to hear the sound of hoofbeats, loud and furious, along the road, a sound...

Table of Contents

Foreword xi

1 The Quarter 1

2 The First Years 12

3 Six Years Old 21

4 Hired Out 30

5 Flight 39

6 The Underground Road 49

7 "Shuck This Corn" 59

8 Mint a Becomes Harriet 70

9 The Patchwork Quilt 79

10 "A Glory Over Everything" 89

11 Stranger in a Strange Land 102

12 Freedom's Clothes 116

13 The Legend of Moses 123

14 The Railroad Runs to Canada 131

15 "Go on or Die" 139

16 "Be Ready to Step on Board" 149

17 "Moses Arrives with Six Passengers" 157

18 A Wagon Load of Bricks 170

19 The Old Folks go North 184

20 The Lecture Platform 201

21 With the Union Army 213

22 The Last Years 229

Timeline 243

Discussion Questions 247

Extension Activities 251

Index 253

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Harriet Tubman; Conductor on the Underground Railroad 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous 7 months ago
From one of my students: This book is easy to read, a good length, has understandable vocabulary for a seventh grader, but has a very slow start. I felt as though I didn’t need to know every little detail about her childhood and it started to get a little bit repetitive. I would have also loved to see any images as it might have made the read more fun and enjoyable. If you wanted to get just the basic life events of Harriet Tubman I would not recommend this book. However, if you are someone really interested in every aspect of her life, you would enjoy this book. The history event blurbs at the end of each chapter was also a nice touch. (As a 12 year old who doesn’t enjoy non-fiction, I would probably not have picked up this book had I not been required to.)
MaowangVater on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Go free or die" was what Harriet Tubman told reluctant runaway slaves. Short, strong, and brave "Moses," as she was called led over 300 people out of Maryland into Delaware and then on to Pennsylvania and then on to Canada. James does an excellent job of bringing Harriet's voice and that of other slaves, slaveholders, and abolitionists.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad is a book that uses fictional language and combines it with historical facts. It is a lighter read with a considerable amount of vocabulary. Petry also introduces the reader to terminology used back then to help get a deeper understanding of the struggles slaves faced on plantations all over the world. Petry narrates through Harriet’s difficult life as a slave with emotion, exposing the flaws and effects slavery had on society back in the 1820’s. Harriet meets many people along the way to freedom who either help or hinder her free and rebellious spirit. This book primarily retells the story of Harriet’s rising tale from an unprivileged slave on a plantation to a courageous abolitionist.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
“Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad” is a very good book. It provides the unique perspective and story of Harriet Tubman, an enslaved black woman, from her childhood to adulthood. You gain insight about enslaved people, what their lives were like, and how they used the Underground Railroad as an effective escape method (even though danger was always present). This novel is historical fiction but also includes excerpts about real historical events at the end of every chapter to help build background knowledge. You won’t feel pressured to rush through the book since it’s only 247 pages long. Plus, it’s well written, has incredible description, and great imagery. It is informative without being overwhelming, and you don’t even realize how much you’re learning! The thing I enjoyed most about this book was the writing. The language flows together beautifully, and I developed an emotional connection to Harriet and the hardships she endured. I definitely recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago