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Archive for November 4th, 2017

by Sam Juliano

On April 20, 2016 the United States Treasury Department announced the imminent replacement of Andrew Jackson’s face on $20 denominations after a groundswell of public opinion that included the vociferous sentiments expressed by adherents of a pointed “Women on 20’s Campaign.”  Though bureaucratic delays and the lengthy period of time it will take to enact such a monumental currency conversion will probably mean a decade before someone holds the new bills in their hands, for so many this is a glowing acknowledgement long overdue that at along last will shatter white male dominance of our society’s most prime example of daily exposure.  Jackson’s replacement is one of the most venerated figures in the nation’s history, one equally heroic to African-Americans and the fairer sex, one untainted by scandal nor personal vice, and venerated largely for her courage in escaping slavery and becoming a leading abolitionist who saved the lives of hundreds and contributed mightily to the Union cause during the Civil War.  In recent years the name of Harriet Tubman as an American of charity and unwavering devotion to a cause at the risk to her own life has elevated her in the regard of many as a figure comparable to Lincoln or King.  Awareness of Tubman as one of the nation’s seminal figures has been increasing over the past decades.  In 1978 she became the first African American to be honored as part of the Black Heritage Stamp Series, as well as the maiden African American woman to be honored on a U.S. postage stamp.  On the 100th anniversary of her death in 2013 officials broke ground on the 17-acre Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park, which included a 15,000-foot visitor center, walking trails and an exhibit hall with interactive displays. The same day, the state designated a 125-mile driving tour, dubbed the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway that cuts through her home turf on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  A Harriet Tubman National Historical Park is set for construction in Auburn, New York where she lived out the post-Civil War years, dying at age 93.

Books about this larger than life figure have been plentiful, with several, including Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton and other biographical volumes by William Still, Fergus Bordewich and Jacqueline Tobin/Raymond G. Dobard attracting the strongest acclaim.  On the picture book scene there have been two exceptional works on Tubman.  In 2000, Alan Schroeder and the renowned Jerry Pinkney collaborated on Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman, and six years later two more children’s literature luminaries, Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson teamed up for the magnificent Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, a work that brought Nelson one of his three Caldecott Honors.  The celebrated wife and husband book making partners Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome are among the most prolific artists in the industry, when their work together is combined with James’s art for books written by famous writers like Jacqueline Woodson, Charlotte Zolotow, Eve Bunting and Angela Johnson.  Lesa and James who specialize in biographies, have gifted the book community with acclaimed titles such as Freedom School, Light in the Darkness, Quilt Alphabet and last year’s sublime Louis Armstrong picture book, Just A Lucky So and So.  Among other biographies the pair have collaborated on books about Sachel Paige, Helen Keller and Benny Goodman. (more…)

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