Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent: How Daring Slaves and Free Blacks Spied for the Un

Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent: How Daring Slaves and Free Blacks Spied for the Un

Thomas B. Allen
Illustrator:  Carla Bauer 
For ages 12 and up
National Geographic, 2006   ISBN: 978-0792278894

Harriet Tubman was a tiny woman who was born into slavery and who never learned how to read or to write. When she was still a young woman she ran away from her master in Maryland and went north to Pennsylvania. Her work helping other slaves to escape from their cruel lives in bondage is now legendary. What many people don’t know is that Harriet and many other African Americans helped the Union cause during the Civil War.

Because blacks were basically considered to be non-people in the south, the whites whom they worked for thought nothing of talking about important war matters in front of their slaves. Many slaves took advantage of this, collecting useful military information which they then passed on to officers in the Union armies. Slaves also served as guides and scouts for Union troops as they often knew the lay of the land better than anyone else. Many slaves were also sent to work on military installations and construction projects and were therefore in a unique position to gather highly important intelligence which Washington was then able to act upon.

During her stints in the world of espionage Harriet Tubman not only collected intelligence and led soldiers to the enemy, but she also did whatever she could to improve the lives of the slaves whom she encountered in the field. She did all this with great courage ignoring the fact that she had a sizable price on her head and slave catchers all over the south were keeping an eye out for her.

This fascinating book tells the often forgotten story about how slaves and free blacks made enormous contributions to the Union cause. They saw that it was in their interest to help those who were trying to end slavery and in the end they did get the freedom that they fought so hard for when President signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Superbly written and carefully researched, this is a book which serves as a powerful tribute to Harriet Tubman and the many other people who risked their lives to free African Americans from slavery.