Book Review: Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent

Harriet Tubman

I knew who Harriet Tubman was.  Obviously. I had US History classes in school.  She was a slave, but then she helped with the Underground Railroad.  That’s about right, right? Well, turns out that like almost everything else I learned about in school, the really interesting stuff got left out.  I wonder if we’d be in anything like the situation we find ourselves in these days if History teachers had any idea how to make history interesting.  I digress.

This is a youth-aimed book that tells something of the life and Civil War activities of Harriet Tubman.  From her escape, and early efforts to help other slaves escape from the South, to her work with the Union, assembling ex-slave fighters and running spy missions, this book touches on a bunch of things far more interesting than the brief footnote she’s typically given.  I definitely never heard about the raid she and Colonel James Montgomery ran deep in Southern territories, freeing slaves and burning plantations.

Author Thomas B. Allen also touches on other spies and agents of note, including Southern lady and Union Spymaster Elizabeth Van Lew and Robert Smalls, among others.  There are so many stories in this book that I need to read more about. Throughout, I kept thinking how many great movies you could make out of these exploits.

There isn’t a lot of depth here.  It’s aimed at kids or teens, and is fairly sanitized, though it doesn’t shy away from the ugly side of things (it also doesn’t revel in them).  Like a good history book, it makes me want to read and know more, and so, I definitely recommend it for someone with a passing interest in history, or for a child who may develop one.


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