John Tubman was one such individual who had a substantial influence upon the life of Harriet Tubman. They were married as teens in Maryland, Clinton notes that their early marriage was filled with "happiness and repose, they loved each other tenderly and with great passion." Little has been known about the relationship between these two individuals, through Clinton's diligent research she paints a picture of a happy couple torn apart through their conflicting moral values. John Tubman was content to live out his life on the farm; he felt that despite the conditions under which he lived, they were not as worse as comparable circumstances at other farms. His indecisiveness when it came to his personal freedom ultimately led him to adamantly refuse to run away with Harriet. When Harriet Tubman fled to Canada without her husband, it signified a tremendous turning point in her life. Clinton very carefully crafts how the reality of their breakup created a substantial change upon her, the courage and conviction in her ideals necessary to destroy the beauty of their relationship is truly inspirational. Through the characterization of John Tubman, Clinton is able to convincingly show that Harriet, the real human being, is even more of a powerful and inspiring figure than the traditional depictions of her legacy on the Underground Railroad.
To understand this biography as a mere description and detailing of Harriet Tubman's life would not give due credit to Clinton's work. The special place that this book holds within the annals of African-American history is that it attempts to separate reality from myth. The majority of the American public knows the story of Harriet Tubman, her courage in helping bring slaves into the north through a dangerous "underground railroad." The danger that she faced through this time of trial, her hunted status throughout the south and her ultimately courage in standing up for African-Americans as well as women's rights are all well documented. However, Harriet Tubman was also a real person, and the personal story behind her accomplishments is far more awe-inspiring than her accomplishments. Clinton reveals that Tubman grew up much like any other slave, that she did not receive divine aid, or superior education, nor did she gain certain advantages over other slaves. That she lived a "normal life," with a husband that she loved in a community that was indistinct from many others. Yet that through all of the pitfalls of life, she wanted something more and acted upon her instincts is truly something to be admired. Clinton's emphasizes that Harriet Tubman was just as human as anyone else, but that her special abilities and her courage arose when they were called upon. The reason behind her dangerous trips into the heart of the South was that she strongly believed in her moral convictions, and that she put everything into her beliefs. She was an ordinary woman who rose up when called upon to do the extraordinary. The vast majority of people in America forget in the face of her lore that she also lived a normal life, and that what she accomplished is all the more amazing because it can be translated to our own actions today.
The lesson to be learned from Clinton's biography is that Harriet Tubman's life can be viewed through the lenses of reality. She is not some biblical figure that arose from the heavens to assume leadership over the African-American freedom movement, but rather an ordinary individual who through her life experiences and moral convictions turned into a strong leader and an able individual. The message that the youth of today can learn from Tubman's story is that complacency is the greatest danger to our moral convictions. It is all too easy to "settle" for what we have now, than to work for what we want later. Tubman reveals that the battle against complacency and the power to dream for a better tomorrow carries with it inherent responsibilities. At times, one has to rise above what one believes is capable to accomplish their goals. Tubman applied this philosophy throughout her life, and Clinton reveals that even in to herself, Tubman never saw what she did as extraordinary. Through a lifetime, what one accomplishes always seems miraculous to others, but ordinary to those who went through every step.
Clinton, Catherine. Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom. First Edition. Boston: Little, Brown and…