Primary Source Analysis – Harriet Tubman

“Harriet, the Moses of Her People” is a biography by Sarah Hopkins Bradford of Harriet Tubman. Araminta “Harriet” Ross Tubman is one of the personalities who played a critical role in the liberation of the black people from slavery and slave trade. Tubman was born in Maryland. She worked as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. She escaped slavery in 1849 and worked in hotels in Philadelphia. Tubman later relocated to Canada and New York respectively. She later returned to Maryland and helped her niece escape from Baltimore, and she continued to liberate slave families and other slaves for the next ten years. Tubman spied for South Carolina’s Union army and was also a nurse during the Civil War. After the war, she returned to New York and continued to fight for women’s suffrage.

Sarah Hopkins Bradford had made an effort to visit Tubman’s brother and parents; thus, she was chosen to publish the story of Tubman’s life. Further, she lived nearby, in Geneva, and was an already established biographer as she had written Columbus’ biography as well as that of Peter the Great. However, Hopkins left for Germany in 1968, and she asked William J. Moses who was her printer to compile Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman. As a result, the book is often disjointed with no chronological order. Tubman requested Bradford to write the biography in 1886 as she intended to raise enough money to build a hospital for people of color (78). There was very little information that was added to the second edition, but the jumbled narrative was arranged in chronological order.

According to Bradford (3), Harriet led hundreds of blacks to escape from slavery thus improving the welfare of the oppressed. An analysis of the life of Harriet Tubman and the activities she undertook indicates that the activist was courageous and did not fear the consequences of returning to the South to help the oppressed slaves. At the age of 13, Tubman had suffered from the cruel treatments of the slave owners, causing an injury to her brain, a condition that she suffered until her old age (Bradford 15). However, since Harriet was a loving and caring person, she engaged in long prayers with the aim of ensuring that her masters convert and abolish their harsh rules. The activities that she undertook led to the rise of a conflict between the slaves and their masters in the southern states of America (Bradford 92).

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An analysis of the information that Bradford presented in the article “Harriet the Moses of Her People” indicates that the author provided relevant information regarding Harriet’s contributions to the liberation of the oppressed blacks in the American states. However, apart from Harriet Tubman, the personalities such as Fredrick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln helped to initiate positive changes in the American societies. It is also evident from the article that Sara compiled that the need to liberate the slaves faced in the southern states faced various challenges. Presley argues that slave masters established stringent policies, which significantly inhibited the abilities of the slaves to engage in activities that would help in their liberation.

As previously discussed in this essay, most of the information that Bradford provides in her article concerning Harriet are significant to the readers. However, some details in the report by the author above are unnecessary. She was interested in producing a continuous prose and she resulting in taking poetic license. Specifically, Bradford has exaggerated some information thus reducing the validity of the article. For instance, Bradford (33) describes the manner in which Harriet walked through the night and over the mountains and bushes in a way that prompts one to deduce that the author is exaggerating the narration. Indeed, the exaggeration of information in an article reduces the reliability of the information that a reader obtains from a given material. Similarly, Bradford (35) discusses a situation where pursuers almost caught Harriet, which is irrelevant and does not help in the comprehension of how the latter contributed to the liberation of the slaves.

According to Bradford (4), Harriet was the one who could direct the actions of other slaves who were escaping the stringent rules of the masters in the southern states. Consequently, she became the principal enemy of the slave-owners and slave traders in the regions where slavery was prevalent. However, the information regarding the enmity between Harriet and the slave owners of the southern states significantly contradicts the reports by other scholars. Notably, Presley argues that various personalities engaged in the liberation of the blacks from the slavery of the southern landowners.

Ultimately, the article “Harriet, the Moses of her People” compiled by Sarah Hopkins Bradford has critical information concerning the life and the struggles that Harriet underwent to help liberate the slaves in the southern regions of America. As much as the author tries to capture factual information, she has incorporated her imagination into the prose especially scenes from her childhood. Despite some information in the article being the author’s perceptions, a majority of the data is valid hence the document is essential for scholars who intend to research about Harriet.


Works Cited

Bradford, H. Sara. Harriet, the Moses of Her People. Geo. R. Lockwood & Son, 1886.

Presley, Sharon. “Black Women Abolitionists and the Fight for Freedom in the 19th Century.” Libertarianism, 2016, Accessed 30 Oct. 2020.

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