100 books like Harriet Tubman

By Catherine Clinton,

Here are 100 books that Harriet Tubman fans have personally recommended if you like Harriet Tubman. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Sojourner Truth: A Life, a Symbol

Megan Marshall Author Of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

From my list on women’s writing on women’s lives.

Who am I?

I am the grown-up little girl who loved to read. I loved novels and children’s biographies—Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, Annie Oakley. I imagined that if I could learn to write books that inspired readers and moved them to tears like my favorite books, I would have accomplished a great good. My first biography, The Peabody Sisters, took twenty years and won awards for historical writing. My second biography, Margaret Fuller, won the Pulitzer. But what matters more than all the prizes is when people tell me they cried at the end of my books. I hope you, too, will read them and weep over lives lived fully and well.    

Megan's book list on women’s writing on women’s lives

Megan Marshall Why did Megan love this book?

Nell Painter’s biography of Sojourner Truth breaks new ground in a different way. Sojourner Truth is famous, an iconic freedom fighter and advocate for Black and female suffrage. We all know her demand for recognition, “Ain’t I a woman?” Or do we? Painter’s research reveals a much more complicated woman and investigates why history has reduced a fascinating life story to that one simple question, which might never have been asked, at least in those precise words. Read this book to find out the true story of Sojourner Truth.  

By Nell Irvin Painter,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Sojourner Truth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sojourner Truth first gained prominence at an 1851 Akron, Ohio, women's rights conference, saying, "Dat man over dar say dat woman needs to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches. . . . Nobody eber helps me into carriages, or ober mud-puddles . . . and ar'n't I a woman?"

Sojourner Truth: ex-slave and fiery abolitionist, figure of imposing physique, riveting preacher and spellbinding singer who dazzled listeners with her wit and originality. Straight-talking and unsentimental, Truth became a national symbol for strong black women--indeed, for all strong women. Like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, she is regarded as…


Book cover of Complete Writings

Bettye Kearse Author Of The Other Madisons: The Lost History of a President's Black Family

From my list on notable enslaved women.

Who am I?

According to the eight generations of my family’s oral historians, I am a descendant of an enslaved cook and her enslaver, and half-brother, President James Madison. I am also a writer and a retired pediatrician. My essays, personal narrative, and commentaries have appeared in the Boston Herald, River Teeth, TIME, and the New York Times Magazine.

Bettye's book list on notable enslaved women

Bettye Kearse Why did Bettye love this book?

In 1761, the slave ship Phillis departed from Africa and headed toward America. Among the human cargo was a young girl. Judging by her missing incisors, she was seven or eight years old. Soon after the ship’s arrival in Boston, John and Susann Wheatley purchased the girl and named her after the ship that had delivered her to them. Mrs. Wheatley taught their servant to read and write and introduced her to classical and English literature, including revered poets. Around 1765, Phillis began writing poetry, and her first poem, “On Messrs. Hussey and Coffin,” published in 1767, when she was only about fourteen years old, rendered her the first black person in America to publish a poem. Carretta’s collection of Wheatley’s work includes a fascinating, thoroughly researched introduction.

By Phillis Wheatley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Complete Writings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The extraordinary writings of Phillis Wheatley, a slave girl turned published poet

In 1761, a young girl arrived in Boston on a slave ship, sold to the Wheatley family, and given the name Phillis Wheatley. Struck by Phillis' extraordinary precociousness, the Wheatleys provided her with an education that was unusual for a woman of the time and astonishing for a slave. After studying English and classical literature, geography, the Bible, and Latin, Phillis published her first poem in 1767 at the age of 14, winning much public attention and considerable fame. When Boston publishers who doubted its authenticity rejected an…


Book cover of The Bondwoman's Narrative

Bettye Kearse Author Of The Other Madisons: The Lost History of a President's Black Family

From my list on notable enslaved women.

Who am I?

According to the eight generations of my family’s oral historians, I am a descendant of an enslaved cook and her enslaver, and half-brother, President James Madison. I am also a writer and a retired pediatrician. My essays, personal narrative, and commentaries have appeared in the Boston Herald, River Teeth, TIME, and the New York Times Magazine.

Bettye's book list on notable enslaved women

Bettye Kearse Why did Bettye love this book?

Though not published until 2002, after Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. purchased and authenticated the manuscript, the autobiographical novel The Bondwoman's Narrative by Hannah Crafts is widely considered the first book known to have been written by a fugitive enslaved woman. Crafts was the author’s pseudonym, and the novel, estimated to have been written in 1858, parallels the life of Hannah Bond, a woman who is documented to have escaped enslavement on a North Carolina plantation and who, like the novel’s protagonist, eventually settled in New Jersey. The preface and introduction of the published book read like a mystery adventure as Professor Gates reveals his multifaceted strategies to identify the real-life author and the real-life characters of her book.

By Hannah Crafts,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Bondwoman's Narrative as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Possibly the first novel written by a black woman slave, this work is both a historically important literary event and a gripping autobiographical story in its own right.

When her master is betrothed to a woman who conceals a tragic secret, Hannah Crafts, a young slave on a wealthy North Carolina plantation, runs away in a bid for her freedom up North. Pursued by slave hunters, imprisoned by a mysterious and cruel captor, held by sympathetic strangers, and forced to serve a demanding new mistress, she finally makes her way to freedom in New Jersey. Her compelling story provides a…


Book cover of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

William Clare Roberts Author Of Marx's Inferno: The Political Theory of Capital

From my list on understanding how power works.

Who am I?

I’m a teacher, a student, and a reader by trade (that is, a university professor), and I spend most of my time trying to understand social and political power: why some people have it, and others don’t, how it circulates and changes (gradually or suddenly), why it sometimes oppresses us and sometimes liberates, how it can be created and destroyed. I mostly do this by reading and teaching the history of political theory, which I am lucky enough to do at McGill University, in conversation and cooperation with some wonderful colleagues.

William's book list on understanding how power works

William Clare Roberts Why did William love this book?

I think everyone should read at least one slave narrative, and Jacobs’s is a gem of both exquisite storytelling and powerful testimony.

Jacobs tells her own story but also the story of a whole town and a whole society, and she paints a devastating portrait of the rot at the heart of the Old South, the sham that slave power made of all human relations that came into contact with it.

By Harriet Jacobs,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The true story of an individual's struggle for self-identity, self-preservation, and freedom, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl remains among the few extant slave narratives written by a woman. This autobiographical account chronicles the remarkable odyssey of Harriet Jacobs (1813–1897) whose dauntless spirit and faith carried her from a life of servitude and degradation in North Carolina to liberty and reunion with her children in the North.
Written and published in 1861 after Jacobs' harrowing escape from a vile and predatory master, the memoir delivers a powerful and unflinching portrayal of the abuses and hypocrisy of the master-slave…


Book cover of Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague

Rebecca D'Harlingue Author Of The Map Colorist

From my list on 17th-century women.

Who am I?

I find the seventeenth century fascinating, and both of my novels are set in that period. The century was a time of great flux, and I am especially interested in exploring the kinds of things that women might have done, even though their accomplishments weren’t recorded. There is a wonderful article by novelist Rachel Kadish called “Writing the Lives of Forgotten Women,” in which she refers to Hilary Mantel’s comments that people whose lives are not recorded fall through the sieve of history. Kadish says that, “Lives have run through the sieve, but we can catch them with our hands.” These novels all attempt to do that.

Rebecca's book list on 17th-century women

Rebecca D'Harlingue Why did Rebecca love this book?

Geraldine Brooks is one of my favorite authors, and Year of Wonders is one reason why.

Anna lives in an English village in 1666, and when the plague strikes the village, the inhabitants agree to stay in the village so that they will not spread the sickness to other areas. I found this part of the story truly touching, although the villagers at times turn on one another.

After the death of two women who were healers, Anna endeavors to learn what she can to nurse those stricken. When the plague has passed, Anna leaves the area and goes to a most unusual destination to further study medicine.

By Geraldine Brooks,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Year of Wonders as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 'March' and 'People of the Book'.

A young woman's struggle to save her family and her soul during the extraordinary year of 1666, when plague suddenly struck a small Derbyshire village.

In 1666, plague swept through London, driving the King and his court to Oxford, and Samuel Pepys to Greenwich, in an attempt to escape contagion. The north of England remained untouched until, in a small community of leadminers and hill farmers, a bolt of cloth arrived from the capital. The tailor who cut the cloth had no way of knowing that the damp…


Book cover of Daughter of the Reich

Helen Lundström Erwin Author Of Sour Milk in Sheep's Wool

From my list on historical fiction on women who changed history.

Who am I?

I love to write stories about people who lived during pivotal times in history. I’m intrigued by what people were thinking and why they thought that way. People, just like us now, were a product of their time and circumstance. They had strong opinions about the issues of the day, and debated fiercely. It’s these conversations and opinions that help me make the past come alive. Being born and raised in Sweden, and having been a New Yorker for thirty years, I was awarded the 2021 Swedish Women’s Educational Association (SWEA) New York’s Scholarship for the artistic promotion of Swedish culture and history in New York.

Helen's book list on historical fiction on women who changed history

Helen Lundström Erwin Why did Helen love this book?

Daughter of the Reich is a story of a young girl in Nazi Germany who was raised to believe that her neighbors and fellow citizens are the enemy because they're Jewish. You gain real insight into the propaganda Germans were told about the Jewish people, and how one relationship can shatter all your misconceptions and stereotypes.

This book reminds me of my own writing in that it explores both sides of history and what happens when someone begins to question their own upbringing.

By Louise Fein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Daughter of the Reich as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of the international bestseller The Hidden Child comes a spellbinding story of impossible love set against the backdrop of the Nazi regime, perfect for fans of The Nightingale and All the Light We Cannot See.

She must choose between loyalty to her country or a love that could be her destruction…

As the dutiful daughter of a high-ranking Nazi officer, Hetty Heinrich is keen to play her part in the glorious new Thousand Year Reich. But she never imagines that all she believes and knows will come into stark conflict when she encounters Walter, a Jewish friend…


Book cover of The Help

Julia Jarman Author Of The Widows' Wine Club

From my list on improbable friendships.

Who am I?

Like the widows in The Widows’ Wine Club, I’m getting on. Unlike them, I’ve been a writer for forty years, often hunched over a keyboard, ignoring people. Amazingly, though, I managed to have a happy marriage and make some great friends. Phew! Because I’ve needed friends, especially since my husband died. Looking back, I’m interested to see that I didn’t instantly take to some of my closest buddies. Circumstances threw us together, and we got to know and like and love each other. I explore this in my book. 

Julia's book list on improbable friendships

Julia Jarman Why did Julia love this book?

I LOVE books about women who won’t be told what to do.

In 1960s Mississippi, black women were "the help." Other jobs weren’t open to them. They cooked and cleaned for white people, and they raised their children, but they weren’t allowed to use the same bathroom. And they couldn’t be friends with the children they’d raised when they were adults. 

Enter white would-be journalist Miss Skeeter aka Eugenia Phelan, who wants change, not least so she can find Constantine, who raised her, then disappeared. Enter Aibileen and Minny, black "helps" also wanting change, especially for their children. They recruit other "helps" who find the courage to act when it is dangerous to do so.

Boundaries are crossed, and unlikely friendships are formed. Brill book!

By Kathryn Stockett,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Help as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestselling novel and basis for the Academy Award-winning film-a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't-nominated as one of America's best-loved novels by PBS's The Great American Read.

Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who's always taken orders quietly, but lately she's unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She's full of ambition, but without a husband, she's…


Book cover of Someone Knows My Name

Helen Lundström Erwin Author Of Sour Milk in Sheep's Wool

From my list on historical fiction on women who changed history.

Who am I?

I love to write stories about people who lived during pivotal times in history. I’m intrigued by what people were thinking and why they thought that way. People, just like us now, were a product of their time and circumstance. They had strong opinions about the issues of the day, and debated fiercely. It’s these conversations and opinions that help me make the past come alive. Being born and raised in Sweden, and having been a New Yorker for thirty years, I was awarded the 2021 Swedish Women’s Educational Association (SWEA) New York’s Scholarship for the artistic promotion of Swedish culture and history in New York.

Helen's book list on historical fiction on women who changed history

Helen Lundström Erwin Why did Helen love this book?

Someone Knows My Name, is a poignant portrayal of the horrors of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the inhuman strength and perseverance of a woman who survived it.

As a writer and historian, I love when I find a writer who can put themselves inside the mind of a person from an earlier time. Lawrence Hill truly does, especially the way he describes how alien the new world was for someone who came from a different culture. How every detail is new, and how heart-wrenching it is to be torn from everything you know. 

By Lawrence Hill,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Someone Knows My Name as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kidnapped from Africa as a child, Aminata Diallo is enslaved in South Carolina but escapes during the chaos of the Revolutionary War. In Manhattan she becomes a scribe for the British, recording the names of blacks who have served the King and earned their freedom in Nova Scotia. But the hardship and prejudice of the new colony prompt her to follow her heart back to Africa, then on to London, where she bears witness to the injustices of slavery and its toll on her life and a whole people. It is a story that no listener, and no reader, will…


Book cover of Before She Was Harriet

Aimee Bissonette Author Of Headstrong Hallie!: The Story of Hallie Morse Daggett, the First Female Fire Guard

From my list on brave and extraordinary women.

Who am I?

I am drawn to stories of women who display a fighting spirit, faith in themselves, and the drive to help others. Perhaps this is due to growing up during the women’s rights movement. So many women paved the way for me. Perhaps it was my upbringing. I was raised with six siblings - three brothers and three sisters – and my parents never thought that my sisters and I couldn’t do something just because we were girls. Combine these experiences with the fact that I love history and you can see why I love these stories. Now I get to write and share stories like these with young readers. Lucky me!

Aimee's book list on brave and extraordinary women

Aimee Bissonette Why did Aimee love this book?

Did I save the best for last? I may have (although I recommend all of these books). This book appeals to me on so many levels. First, it tells the story of an important woman of history who was dauntless in her mission to help others to safety and freedom. Second, the dreamy, lyrical narrative is so different from how so many picture book biographies are written, yet incredibly effective. Third, the art is amazing – especially in its depiction of Harriet as an old woman when her strength was still so evident. And fourth, the story is told in reverse chronology. What a great decision! I use this book often when I teach about nonfiction picture book writing because of this creative approach. Hands down. I love this book.

By Lesa Cline-Ransome, James E. Ransome (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Before She Was Harriet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

An evocative poem and stunning watercolors come together to honor an American heroine in a Coretta Scott King Honor and Christopher Award-winning picture book.

We know her today as Harriet Tubman, but in her lifetime she was called by many names. As General Tubman she was a Union spy. As Moses she led hundreds to freedom on the Underground Railroad. As Minty she was a slave whose spirit could not be broken. As Araminta she was a young girl whose father showed her the stars and the first steps on the path to freedom.

This lush, lyrical biography in verse…


Book cover of The Agitators: Three Friends Who Fought for Abolition and Women's Rights

Theresa Kaminski Author Of Dr. Mary Walker's Civil War: One Woman's Journey to the Medal of Honor and the Fight for Women's Rights

From my list on 19th-century women’s rights activists.

Who am I?

My expertise: I specialize in writing about scrappy women in American history. I started with a trilogy of nonfiction history books about American women in the Philippine Islands who lived through the Japanese occupation during World War II. Then I found a biographical subject that combined the fascinating topics of war and suffrage, so I wrote Dr. Mary Walker’s Civil War: One Woman’s Journey to the Medal of Honor and the Fight for Women’s Rights. The next woman who grabbed my attention was a big name in Hollywood in the 20th century. Queen of the West: The Life and Times of Dale Evans is due out in 2022. 

Theresa's book list on 19th-century women’s rights activists

Theresa Kaminski Why did Theresa love this book?

Wickenden’s three agitating friends were Harriet Tubman, Frances Seward, and Martha Coffin Wright, women who likely first connected through their work on the underground railroad. Of this estimable trio, Tubman remains the most well-known to history as the formerly enslaved woman who regularly risked her life to guide enslaved people out of bondage before and during the Civil War. Seward, the wife of Lincoln’s secretary of state, used her wealth and power to fight for the rights of Blacks and women. Wright, a Quaker, was the sister of Lucretia Mott, and the two of them helped plan the first women’s rights conference, held at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. Wickenden skillfully excavates existing source material to craft this compelling group biography.

By Dorothy Wickenden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Agitators as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the intimate perspective of three friends and neighbors in mid-nineteenth century Auburn, New York-the "agitators" of the title-acclaimed author Dorothy Wickenden tells the fascinating and crucially American stories of abolition, the Underground Railroad, the early women's rights movement, and the Civil War.

Harriet Tubman-no-nonsense, funny, uncannily prescient, and strategically brilliant-was one of the most important conductors on the underground railroad and hid the enslaved men, women and children she rescued in the basement kitchens of Martha Wright, Quaker mother of seven, and Frances Seward, wife of Governor, then Senator, then Secretary of State William H. Seward.

Harriet worked for…


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Interested in Harriet Tubman, slaves, and abolitionism?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Harriet Tubman, slaves, and abolitionism.

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