I wish I could say that this book came to me in a dream or that I had a
vision of it in completed form from the beginning of the journey. I can-
not claim, as have some Harriet Tubman enthusiasts, that the spirit of
Black Moses spoke to me while I was standing at her grave in Auburn’s
Fort Hill cemetery. I am therefore thankful for the many people who
enabled me to move this project forward.
Tubman scholarship is finally achieving a level of recognition within
the academy worthy of the woman herself. I am particularly grateful to
several of Tubman’s recent biographers, whose books were published as I
was bringing my own research and writing to closure. When I was on the
library and archive trail, guest registers at many depositories indicated
that Jean Humez had been there before me. I was soon to learn that she
was assembling a wealth of primary sources from which a more accurate
life of Harriet Tubman could be constructed. She generously shared in-
formation and allowed me to read her manuscript prior to publication.
Her theoretical insights enriched my reflections on the interplay of myth,
memory, and history in the process by which Tubman has become an
American icon.
Kate Clifford Larson deserves first honor for having done more than
any Tubman biographer, past or present, to unravel the folds in the record
and recover a more faithful portrait of Tubman’s life and times. An ex-
traordinarily generous scholar, Kate readily shared from her amazingly
rich research files and helped me find my way through a thicket of ques-
tions that arose as I delved deeper into the conflation of fact and fiction
that surround Tubman in the popular imagination. Her Tubman biogra-
phy is at present the gold standard.
I cannot recall exactly when I first discovered Jim McGowan’s
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