The Harriet Tubman Syllabus: An Exhaustive List of Works About and Inspired by Tubman

Editor’s note: Launching Tuesday, Feb. 1, and culminating on March 10, the Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Project pays tribute to this feminist icon with a special commemorative issue through Ms. online and in print. Explore the interactive groundbreaking site here.

The Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Project concludes with the Harriet Tubman Syllabus—an exhaustive list of works about and inspired by Harriet Tubman, which confirms the wide-reaching impact of her legacy more than a hundred years after her passing on March 10, 1913. 

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. “Harriet Tubman, abolitionist” (1900). (New York Public Library Digital Collections)

The Harriet Tubman Syllabus is a comprehensive list of works relating to Harriet Tubman’s life and history. Tubman’s legacy has lasted throughout the decades in a plethora of ways, as found in books, articles, songs, poetry and museums, to name a few. Her influence is clearly palpable, as she continues to inspire creative works in various genres. 

This syllabus provides insight into the journey of a freedom fighter who risked her own life to rescue others. There is still so much to learn about Harriet Tubman, as evidenced by numerous works on this list: from biographies to film and animation, from visual arts to speculative fiction, from historical documents to memorials, from opera to reenactments. For those of all ages and through creative and nonfiction avenues, different paths lead to more insight and more knowledge about this extraordinary and courageous leader. 

Below is an overview of the different categories included, followed by a link to the complete list. If there is a work about or inspired by Harriet Tubman that you believe belongs on this list, please send an email to: [email protected].  

  • Biographies: Over 40 books (for adult and juvenile readers combined) exploring the life of Harriet Tubman. 
  • Primary sources: Nearly 20 original documents, prints and photos available online relating to Harriet Tubman. 
  • Articles: Nearly 30 articles from both academic journals and the popular press. 
  • History books: Approximately 25 nonfiction books exploring histories relevant to Harriet Tubman. 
  • Relevant websites: Nearly 10 examples of online platforms focused on Harriet Tubman. 
  • Women with similar histories to Harriet Tubman: Approximately 12 examples of women of African descent who engaged in similar liberation work. 
  • Fiction: Approximately 25 fictional works, including novels and graphic novels about Harriet Tubman, for both adult and juvenile readers. 
  • Poetry: Nearly 20 works of poetry.  
  • Spoken word: More than five works of spoken word (including podcasts). 
  • Music: Approximately 15 examples of songs, music videos, and albums about or inspired by Harriet Tubman. 
  • Art: Approximately 25 artworks of various forms – paintings, sculpture, mixed media, video – featuring Harriet Tubman and created by both well-known and lesser known artists. 
  • Museums and memorials: Over 20 examples of memorials, monuments, campaigns, museums and exhibits, and state and national parks dedicated to and/or focused on Harriet Tubman. 
  • Film, television and animation: Nearly 30 examples of documentary and feature films, animation shorts and series, and television specials, episodes, and series about Harriet Tubman. 
  • Theater and stage performances: Approximately 10 examples of theatrical and live performances, opera, and historical reenactments. 
  • Activism Inspired by Harriet Tubman: Over 10 examples of activist groups, historical societies, and other organizations inspired by Harriet Tubman. 

View the complete list here

The research team for this public syllabus includes students in Dr. Janell Hobson’s graduate research seminar in women’s, gender and sexuality studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York: Boluwatife Ajayi, Karen Chang, Rachael DelSignore, Libin Fan, Chamanka Gamage, Yen-Jung (Roni) Tseng, Eric Warren and Ji-sun Won, with additional support provided by research assistant Alex Perry. 

The essay series for the Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Project is as follows:

Michelle D. Commander, “Let Me Not Forget: Harriet Tubman’s Enduring Speculative Visions” | Feb. 2

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, “Harriet Tubman, Astronomer Extraordinaire” | Feb. 3

The Life of Harriet Tubman 

Kate Clifford Larson, “Harriet Tubman: A Life Beyond Myths” | Feb. 8 

“Family Portraits of a Legend: Conversations with the Descendants of Harriet Tubman” | Feb. 9 

Deirdre Cooper Owens, “Harriet Tubman’s Disability and Why It Matters” | Feb. 10 

The Untold Stories and Songs of Harriet Tubman 

Edda L. Fields-Black, “‘Harriet’ and the Combahee River Uprising” | Feb. 15 

A Conversation with Music Composer Nkeiru Okoye | Feb. 16 

Maya Cunningham, “The Sound World of Harriet Tubman” | Feb. 17 

Imagining Harriet Tubman 

Amy Corron and Rebecca Rouse, “Why Video Games Education Needs Harriet Tubman” | Feb. 22

A Conversation with Artist Nettrice Gaskins | Feb. 23 

Michele Wallace, “Harriet Tubman in the Art of Faith Ringgold” | Feb. 24 

Rediscovering Harriet Tubman 

Jonathan Michael Square, “The Two Harriets” | March 1 

A Conversation with Karen V. Hill, Director of the Harriet Tubman Home | March 2 

Douglas V. Armstrong, “Using Archaeology to Rediscover Harriet Tubman’s Life in Freedom” | March 3 

Celebrating a Legacy 

Keisha N. Blain, “Justice and the Meaning of the Tubman $20” | March 8 

A Conversation with Mary N. Elliott, Curator of American Slavery at the Smithsonian Museum | March 9

Harriet Tubman Syllabus | March 10 


Questions or press queries about the series? Contact [email protected]

About

Janell Hobson is professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York, and the author of When God Lost Her Tongue: Historical Consciousness and the Black Feminist Imagination (2021), Venus in the Dark: Blackness and Beauty in Popular Culture (2005, 2nd ed. 2018), and Body as Evidence: Mediating Race, Globalizing Gender (2012). She is the 2021-2022 community fellow at the University at Albany’s Institute for History and Public Engagement in support of her role as the Ms. guest editor of the Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Project. She is a contributing writer to Ms. with a research focus on Black women’s histories and representations in popular culture.