10 books like Harriet Tubman

By Catherine Clinton,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Harriet Tubman. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Sojourner Truth

By Nell Irvin Painter,

Book cover of Sojourner Truth: A Life, a Symbol

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.  

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…


Complete Writings

By Phillis Wheatley,

Book cover of Complete Writings

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.

Complete Writings

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…


The Bondwoman's Narrative

By Hannah Crafts,

Book cover of The Bondwoman's Narrative

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.

The Bondwoman's Narrative

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…


Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

By Harriet Jacobs,

Book cover of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Jacobs’ emotionally compelling book is arguably the most well-known slave narrative written by a woman. Published in 1861, under the pseudonym Linda Brent, this intimate memoir played an important role in the antislavery movement. Nineteen-century readers were moved, as are readers today, by the story of a young woman so determined to avoid the sexual advances of her enslaver that, for seven years, she hides in her grandmother’s coffin-like attic from which she secretly watches from afar her two children at play. The narrative ends on a cautiously hopeful note. When Jacobs finally escapes from North Carolina, she is able to spend time with her children in New York City and Boston, but she is still enslaved.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

By Harriet Jacobs,

Why should I read it?

1 author 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…


Year of Wonders

By Geraldine Brooks,

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

Voice is everything in this mesmerizing novel set in a small city during the plague. England 1666 is thick with suspicion, fear, and death. Widows, healers, and mothers of the dead are easy targets for religious zealots and outsiders, but one young widow—our narrator Anna—finds new ways to survive and thrive. Brooks trains her sights on age-old fearmongering to show how a community breeds suspicion and targets scapegoats in times of pestilence and mistrust. This is a novel that should be read now to remind us of the darkness that lies at the heart of fear and plagues.

Year of Wonders

By Geraldine Brooks,

Why should I read it?

5 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…


Daughter of the Reich

By Louise Fein,

Book cover of Daughter of the Reich

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.

Daughter of the Reich

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…


The Help

By Kathryn Stockett,

Book cover of The Help

The Help stayed with me. I could relate to the mixed emotions of loving parts of your job, but hating other parts, and shoving down that uncomfortable feeling you get when you know you’re not treated right, but could lose everything if you speak out. I can only imagine how this must feel when it’s because of racism and segregation.

It’s about how even small acts of resistance can change the world. A story about women who question the status quo, and who, at the risk of their own livelihoods, say, enough!

The Help

By Kathryn Stockett,

Why should I read it?

2 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…


Someone Knows My Name

By Lawrence Hill,

Book cover of Someone Knows My Name

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. 

Someone Knows My Name

By Lawrence Hill,

Why should I read it?

1 author 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…


Before She Was Harriet

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

Book cover of Before She Was Harriet

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.

Before She Was Harriet

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.

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…


The Agitators

By Dorothy Wickenden,

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

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.

The Agitators

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?

7,000+ 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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