When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom
by Carole Boston Weatherford
illustrated by Kadir Nelson
About the book:
“I set the North Star in the heavens and I mean for you to be free”
Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman hears these words from God one summer night and decides to leave her husband and family behind and escape. Taking with her only her faith, she must creep through woods with hounds at her feet, sleep for days in a potato hole and trust people who could have easily turned her in.
But she was never alone.
In lyrical text, Carole Boston Weatherford describes Tubman’s spiritual journey as she hears the voice of God guiding her north to freedom on that very first trip to escape the brutal practice of forced servitude. Tubman would make nineteen subsequent trips back south, never being caught, but none as profound as this first one. Courageous, compassionate, and deeply religious, Harriet Tubman and her bravery and relentless pursuit of freedom are a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
This is a unique and moving portrait of one of the most inspiring figures of the Underground Railroad. Kadir Nelson’s emotionally charged paintings embody strength healing and hope.
About the author:
Carole Boston Weatherford has authored well over a dozen children’s books including The Sound That Jazz Makes, illustrated by Eric Valasquez, which was an NAACP Image Award finalist and winner of the Carter G. Woodson Award from the National Council for the Social Studies. Remember the Bridge: Poems of a People was the winner of the Juvenile Literature Award from American Association of University Women- North Carolina. A minister’s wife, Ms. Weatherford makes her home in North Carolina and has roots in the same Maryland county where Harriet Tubman was born.
About the illustrator:
Kadir Nelson began drawing at the age of three, displaying an artistic talent before he could write or spell. His children’s books include Ellington Was Not a Street, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner, by Ntozake Shange, as well as Big Jabe: Hewitt Andersons’ Great Big Life, winner of the Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators Original Art show, and the Coretta Scott King Honor Book Thunder Rose, all by Jerdine Nolen. Mr. Nelson makes his home in California with his family.
About the guide:
This guide includes discussion questions intended to provoke thought and insight into the themes of the book, which include freedom, justice, family, risk and hope.
- What inspired you to tell this particular part of Harriet Tubman’s story?
- Even your prose reads like poetry. How do you manage it?
- What advice do you have for young writers?
- What kind of research did you do for the book? What was the most interesting fact that you learned?
- What can your fans look forward to next?
Read the forward aloud to students. What do you think Harriet Tubman will do for the slaves? Why?
- Harriet Tubman heard God’s voice. Why do you think some people can while others cannot hear their god? Could anyone learn to listen or is it a special gift?
- Why doesn’t Harriet tell anyone her plans? Would you be able to keep this secret?
- Describe what Harriet must do to stay safe on her journey?
- Which part would have scared you the most? Why?
- How does Harriet know who to trust along the way? How do the strangers help her?
- How does she escape the dogs on her trail? What other dangers does she face?
- What do you think the phrase “Your faith has wings” means? How does Harriet prove her faith?
- Where does Harriet escape to? Why is this a safe place for her?
- What is the Underground Railroad? How does it work?
- Why is Harriet Tubman called Moses? Who was the biblical Moses? What did he do for his people? What did Harriet do for hers?
Read the author’s note at the end of the story. Write five facts from it that you found most interesting. Then, write five questions you wish you could ask Harriet Tubman herself.
- How many miles did Harriet Tubman walk to gain her freedom? (in the author’s note)
- If there are 2,000 steps in every mile then how many steps did Harriet make?
- How many miles did Harriet travel if she made 19 trips back to the south?
- If the runaways need to make it in five days how many miles must they travel each day?
- Harriet is thought to have freed nearly 300 slaves. On average, how many slaves went with her each time?
Visit this website and hear many of the slave spirituals that were popular during Harriet Tubman’s life.
Create a collage about freedom. Use any materials you like but explain your piece in a brief artist’s statement or journal. Why did you use the pictures, colors and textures that you did? What would Harriet Tubman think of your piece? How does art help people understand each other?