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Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero Hardcover – December 30, 2003

4.6 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Few American historical figures are as familiar in legend as Tubman (1822?-1913), and as little known in fact. Although at least 30 juvenile biographies have treated her, Larson's is the first adult biography to appear since Earl Conrad's Harriet Tubman (1943). This pedestrian (in the neutral sense) account presents new investigative sources, utilizing court records and contemporary local newspapers, wills and letters, along with legal and illegal transactions. Larson directs tangled traffic as Tubman and her relatives are "passed down through several generations"; she traces the lives of the white owners as well the black "blended community of free and enslaved people" on Maryland's Eastern Shore, where Tubman grew up in slavery and where she returned time and again to spirit slaves to freedom. In recounting Tubman's routes and ruses, as the figure known as "Moses," Larson freshly identifies many of the escapees as she delineates the solid role of free and enslaved blacks in the Underground Railroad. She identifies Tubman's "sleeping spells, periods of semi-consciousness," as temporal lobe epilepsy. With Tubman's support of John Brown and her activities during the Civil War, Larson arrives where the Tubman legend usually ends with Tubman immortalized "forever as an Underground Railroad Agent and Civil War spy." As in the only other adult biography, Sarah Bradford's Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman (1869), Larson follows her subject into her post-Civil War life supporting freedmen in the South and tending to a large household, including a young woman Larson speculates may have been Tubman's daughter. While this history is well done, competition will arrive in February, when Little, Brown publishes Catherine Clinton's Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Araminta Ross, better known as Harriet Tubman, was born a slave in 1822 on Maryland's Eastern Shore. In 1849, after hearing that she might be sold to settle her late master's debt, she escaped and began a life of sacrifice to help others escape as well. But Tubman's efforts didn't stop there. She played a vital role in the events of the Civil War and, in her later years, supported the fight for women's rights. Until the end of her life, she fought against the bigotry and injustice faced daily by African Americans. Using a clear writing style, Larson does an excellent job of placing Tubman in the context of her times. After finishing this book, readers will feel a greater appreciation for this woman's accomplishments and awareness that one person really can make a difference.–Peggy Bercher, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (December 30, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345456270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345456274
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #225,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

A New York Times best selling author, Kate Clifford Larson specializes in 19th and 20th century U.S. Women's and African American History. After earning two degrees from Simmons College in Boston, and an MBA from Northeastern University, Larson pursued a Doctorate in American History at the University of New Hampshire. Passionate about researching and writing about American women's lives, Larson enjoys the challenges of teasing out life stories from voices that have long been silenced. "I feel strongly that we must reconnect with the women who helped build and shape this country," Larson recently wrote, "and by putting women at the center of the story, the world looks very different - more complex, interesting, and colorful."

Watch Kate Clifford Larson's interview with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Eileen McNamara at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Forum on C-Span Book TV. http://www.c-span.org/video/?328843-1/kate-clifford-larson-rosemary

Check out her website at www.katecliffordlarson.com for more information about her books and upcoming events.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In her introduction, Larson says "We all believe we know Harriet Tubman" yet this knowledge is limited to the heroic myth of children's books. She does not seem real flesh and blood to us. Larson sets out to rectify this, and does so admirably. She spent years combing through primary sources such as court records and private letters to recreate for us a Harriet Tubman who lives and breathes. There's even a family tree.
Along the way, some treasured myths are debunked. For example, there was never a $40,000 bounty on her head. Nor (as every school child can quote) did she make 19 trips and rescue 300 people; it's closer to 13 trips and 70 people, and she perhaps provided aid and instructions to another 50. None of which diminishes her heroism, of course. It simply makes her more accessible as a human being by setting the record straight. And what Larson adds to the record far outweighs what she takes away.
This book can be challenging to read at times, because rather than stating her own conclusions as fact (e.g.Tubman's birth date, which she places in February or March of 1822) Larson sometimes presents several possibilities and provides evidence to support each; we are left to draw our own conclusions. But this provides groundwork for future researchers and, I feel, is a more honest than presuming finality where none is present.
The Publisher's Weekly review above mentions competition from Catherine Clinton's Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom. While the narrative style of the Clinton book is probably more accessible to a casual reader, the book relies heavily on secondary sources, repeating some of the very myths debunked in Larson's book. But overall, it does take advantage of modern scholarship and is therefore an improvement upon previous adult biographies.
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Format: Hardcover
as to "questioning" the popular numbers for trips into the slave South and people led to freedom, Larson relies more on Tubman's *own* reports than on the writers (often WHITE by the way!) who had their own rationales for inflating the numbers in service of books sales and other political goals. Larson does not *reduce* Tubman's heroism (indeed the subtitle explicitly calls Tubman a "hero" ) what she does is highlight the fact that whether 70 or 300 were led to freedom by Harriet Tubman she was a hero.
The book is a celebration of an American life that draws on sources black, white, archival, family and tradition. The acknowledgments and the cover blurbs are thanks to a myriad of African Americans of all types. What those people did recognize and this reader below does not is that Larson used the truth and the historical record to make that heroism more than simply a popular opinion but an incontrovertible fact. We honor the past and its heroes by telling the TRUTH about them. Harriet Tubman didn't need myth then and she doesn't need it now. Her life was one of truth and faith, we owe her memory nothing less.
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Format: Hardcover
Who is this woman they called "Moses?" and what did she do to acquire this name?

In this work by Kate Larson we examine the life and workings of Harriet Tubman, a remarkable woman who risked her life for others. The author takes us along the journey of Ms.Tubman's life and her battle for freedom and the freedom of others who were slaves at this time.

The author's work shows her intense research as she carefully outlines and puts together all the pieces of this incredible woman's life. Her writing style is factual yet she draws you along in a gentle storytelling manner that keeps your attention.

The pictures that were included added much realism to the read as pictures certainly help by putting a face on the character you are reading about. I found this work very enlightening and certainly learned a lot about an outstanding woman of history and the era in which she lived.

Shirley Johnson
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Format: Hardcover
Bound for the Promised Land is the first book that I have actually read to the very end, in a long time. I could not put this book down! As I turned page after page, there was wonderful historic fact couched in a way that is easily understood by the reader and placed within a believeable context of time, places, and people whom Harriet Tubman encountered or assisted during her long lifetime.

Kate Clifford Larson brings Harriet Tubman to life because of the many details she includes in the book. I was in awe as to how the author would know such extensive information. Clearly, this book was thoroughly researched. The biographer goes beyond just presenting facts. She also analyzes situations and interprets them. One example concerns why Tubman 'kidnapped' her own niece and brought her to Canada. No other print source that I have read so far has presented a theory as to why that may have occurred.

This book is a must-read for any serious student of history and particularly those who are interested in the Underground Railroad and those abolitionists and conductors who facilitated flights to freedom. Magnificent piece of writing and well worth reading!

Patricia L. Cummings
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Format: Paperback
Unfortunately, what many people know about Harriet Tubman is often relegated to a few facts taught during Black History month. "The Moses of her people" or the "Conductor of the Underground Railroad" are a few often quoted phrases used when discussing this historic figure. Yet, how many of us honestly know and understand what truly drove Harriet Tubman to do what she did? In the historical biography BOUND FOR THE PROMISE LAND: HARRIET TUBMAN: PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN HERO, by Kate Clifford Larson we are given a birds-eye view of the overwhelmingly heartbreaking and dangerous sacrifices Tubman endured to obtain her freedom and that of other enslaved people.

Kate Clifford Larson gives insight into Tubman's life by documenting her family history and how she, her mother and siblings were sold and forced to move away from her beloved father. Tubman spent most of her teen years being hired out to different masters; many of these temporary masters were unbelievably cruel to her. It was fear of being sold once more that prompted Tubman to run away using the already established Underground Railroad for help. The love and empathy for family and friends who remained in bondage is what gave Tubman the courage to make trips back into slave territory to and assist her people in escapes. The amount of intelligence, physical stamina and heroism that it took for Tubman to endure during the trips were nothing short of miraculous, especially considering the fact that Tubman was epileptic (caused by being hit in the head by an overseer trying to prevent an escape). Yet, her love of family, justice and God kept her going despite the threat of being caught.

Kate Clifford Larson has written a book that is not only a historical biography, but also reads like a work of fiction.
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