5 out of 5 Stars
I have studied history my entire life. I really enjoy learning stories of our past and sadly the history that is often told tends to center around a man and how he over came his struggles. I knew of Harriet Tubman and that she was a major part of the Underground Railroad, but I really didn’t know much about her story. She has always been a bit of a footnote in my studies of the American Civil War. After reading One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale I knew I wanted to buy The Underground Abductor for my son, but also for me. I wanted to know more about this incredible woman and I wanted to make sure my son knew her story as well.
The story starts with her beginnings and her life as a slave when she was a young girl. Her name was originally Araminta Harriet Ross and she was born in Maryland. This book says she changed her name when she made it to the north because she needed a “free” name and not a slave name. Her mother’s name was also Harriet so some speculate she changed it around the time of her marriage in honor of her mother which happened before she went North. She was always very physically strong and wasn’t very good at the house work. Due to this she went out and worked with her father and often worked so hard the other men couldn’t keep up. One day when she was picking up goods at the supply store she refused to hold on to a slave that was there without permission and the merchant threw a 2lb weight at her head causing a traumatic brain injury. This resulted in terrible headaches, seizures, and she would fall asleep frequently (narcolepsy) for the rest of her life. During these spells she started having visions – according to her accounts many she followed and they saved her life.
She started hearing stories of URR (the Underground Railroad) and due to the constant threat of being sold (or watching family members being sold) she decided to escape to the North where slavery had been outlawed. Life in the north wasn’t easy for the African-Americans and there were plenty of people who were looking for run away slaves, but the rewards outweighed the risk and she was successful. In her travels she figured out who she could trust and how to go back and forth. She made the journey many times, rescuing hundreds of people and was never caught. The book also mentions Fredrick Douglass and gives a brief synopsis of his life and his impact as well. There is evidence Harriet Tubman, on one of her trips, met him and the whole party she was leading stayed in his home. During the war she also acted as a spy for the Union and helped with the war effort in any way she could.
After the war she continued her efforts in fighting for people who needed help, and assisted former slaves in setting up a new life. She fought until the very end and when she died in 1913 she was buried with full military honors.
The format of the graphic novel lends itself to keeping the book moving quickly and also takes the horrific way the slaves were treated and puts it in a way that gets the ideas across without being super scary for kids. The slave’s lives, I just can’t even imagine, must have been so horrific. Kids 8 and up will do really well with this although there might be a few questions (I had a few questions too!). After we read the book my son and I had a little chat about that part of our history, specifically around slavery. This is not a pretty part of our history, but it is so important for our kids to know and understand it so that this sort of things never ever happens again and we can learn (and teach) that despite the differences in our skin color, we are all humans and we need to treat each other with respect.
I really loved learning about this incredible woman. My son has read it at least twice since Christmas and it is one of his favorites as well. We can’t recommend this book more!