Monday, April 21, 2014

Who was Harriet Tubman?

Author:  Yona Zeldis McDonough
Illustrated:  Nancy Harrison
Published:  2002
In elementary school we had to learn about Harriet Tubman.  I grew up in Maryland and this was part of the curriculum.  Although Harriet Tubman is not part of the curriculum here in Virginia, I feel that our children should definitely learn about her.  I remember being inspired by her story and her fight for something good even when facing the possibility of death.
This book includes the history of Harriet Tubman's life, but also includes information on the history of slavery, and other famous abolitionists like Frederick Douglass.  Two views of a slave ship showing how the slaves were stacked in a small space to cross the Atlantic Ocean are included.  The exposure to this type of information should make students more aware of the sufferings of others and more empathetic to the sufferings endured by others. Students are also taught that families were torn apart by slave owners who sold family members.  I think students would be able to relate to this because our families are so important to us and even though we have to be apart from our families at times, most of us are able to reunite with them eventually.

Harriet Tubman
I remember being shocked by the reason we always see Harriet Tubman with a head covering.  An overseer was chasing another slave and Harriet got between the overseer and the slave.  Even as a young girl Harriet was very brave.  The overseer threw a 2 pound weight that hit Harriet on the head leaving her unconscious, bleeding, and with a large scar on her forehead.  This books shows how Harriet's mom tenderly cared for her and helped her recover.

Harriet learned how to escape to freedom and became a conductor in the Underground Railroad.  She learned about rivers, when to travel, and who she could trust.  She helped slaves escape from the south to the north, all the way to Canada.  She lead over 300 slaves to freedom.

I like to use the opportunity to teach about Harriet Tubman when I am teaching about biographies.  We mostly learn about men when we learn history so this is one of the few opportunities where we can teach the children about a heroic woman who put others first and had a great impact on the history of many slaves.

Frederick Douglass
The book is straightforward.  It includes additional information so that the reader is aware of other heroes and events from the same time period.  Information is included on slave ships, the buying and selling of slaves, the impact of slavery on cotton and tobacco, the role of Quakers in the Underground Railroad, Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Frederick Douglass.  In addition, a timeline is included to show additional events in history during Harriet Tubman's life. 

The illustrations in the book are simple and they seem to be pencil drawings.  The role of the pictures was to visually represent the text, the pictures did not really add to the biography.  I wish the pictures were more detailed or life-like so that students could better understand how horrible this time was for the slaves.  Despite the pictures, a student unfamiliar with Harriet Tubman would find her story inspirational and fascinating.

This book is written for girls and boys and is definitely at the 3rd grade level.  It is appropriate for providing information about a specific time in history and about the history of an amazing woman.  I believe that third graders, especially third grade girls, would be interested in learning more about this topic after reading this book as an introduction to Harriet Tubman. 

Check this book out from the library.
Underground Railroad
Visit Frederick Douglass's home!

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