Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman made a harrowing journey North, but her own emancipation wasn’t enough for her. She knew she had to help other enslaved people be free. Tubman went on to serve as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, plus work as a Union spy, a nurse, and a supporter of the women’s suffrage movement. These Harriet Tubman books offer deeper insights into her life for every level of reader.
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Harriet Tubman Books for Kids
1. Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, by Carol Boston Weatherford
This Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King award-winning picture book combines lyrical text with gorgeous illustrations to tell Tubman’s story. It recounts how she heard the word of God telling her to seek freedom, then made 19 more trips to help her fellow enslaved people make the same journey.
2. Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad, by Ann Petry
The late Ann Petry was a reporter, activist, pharmacist, and teacher and best known for writing The Street. It was the first book by a Black female author to sell more than a million copies. Her middle-grade Harriet Tubman biography is just as accessible and compelling. It also features a foreward by National Book Award finalist Jason Reynolds.
3. Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom, by Catherine Clinton
Documentation of Tubman’s work as an Underground Railroad conductor is sparse, but Clinton is able to piece together one of the deepest portraits of her life. She also paints a detailed picture of the era, including depictions of the horrors of enslaved life as well as introductions to other abolitionists who are less well-known.
4. Who Was Harriet Tubman?, by Yona Zeldis McDonough
Part of the Who Was? series of biographies aimed at kids 8 to 12, this volume for the school-age set does a good job of introducing kids to Tubman’s life and times. It’s a good starting biography for more reluctant readers.
5. The Story of Harriet Tubman: A Biography Book for New Readers, by Christine Platt
Part of The Story Of: series of books (another biography series geared toward early independent readers), this book incorporates full-color illustrations and informational graphics to present children with a comprehensive picture of American slavery and the Civil War era.
6. National Geographic Readers: Harriet Tubman, by Barbara Kramer
The National Geographic brings its excellent reputation to this Harriet Tubman biography for the youngest independent readers (ages 5 to 8). With colorful photographs, illustrations, and informational graphics, this book is a great introduction to Tubman’s life story.
7. The Story of Harriet Tubman: Conductor of the Underground Railroad, by Kate McMullan
First published in 1990, this biography geared for readers in 3rd to 6th grades is still a top pick. McMullen’s thorough but accessible text details how Tubman helped free more than 300 enslaved people as a conductor. It also sheds more light on her work as a nurse, scout, and spy for the Union Army.
8. I Am Harriet Tubman, by Brad Meltzer
This picture book biography is part of Meltzer’s Ordinary People Change the World series, which have been made into a PBS Kids show. Eye-catching illustrations and a handy timeline give kids plenty to pore over and discuss.
9. Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman, by Dorothy Sterling
Published in 1987, this is one of the most popular Harriet Tubman books, thanks to Sterling’s excellent research and compelling narrative. The novelistic portrayal of Tubman’s life weaves in dialogue and historical, spiritual songs passed down through generations of enslaved people to provide a gripping portrayal of Tubman’s life and times.
10. She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman, by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
National Book Award finalist Dunbar’s modern and engaging look at Tubman’s life is a must-have for older readers. Featuring illustrations, photos (notably beyond the ones most often seen), and informational graphics, readers will get a lot out of this book even in a quick flip-through.
11. Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky , by Faith Ringgold
Award-winning author and illustrator Ringgold brings back her character Cassie (from the picture book Tar Beach) to tell the story of Tubman and the Underground Railroad. The book shines with gorgeous artwork and the author’s commitment to pulling no punches when it comes to talking about the atrocities of slavery.
12. The Underground Abductor: An Abolitionist Tale about Harriet Tubman, by Nathan Hale
Tubman and the Underground Railroad get the graphic novel treatment as the fifth entry in Hale’s Hazardous Tales series. Like the rest of his collection, Tubman’s story is presented as a comic-book style, complete with danger, comedy, and eye-catching artwork. Tween readers who respond to visual storytelling will get a lot out of this, plus a helpful bibliography of other related works.
13. Little People, Big Dreams: Harriet Tubman, by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara
By no means a full account of her life, this preschool-geared Harriet Tubman biography is a great starting point for the youngest learners to get a sense of her amazing life and brave expeditions.
14. What Was the Underground Railroad?, by Yona Zeldis McDonough
Though not ostensibly about Harriet Tubman, this book’s roundup of stories about “passengers” on the Underground Railroad (which was neither underground nor a railroad) provides a helpful primer for kids interested in learning more about the work for which Tubman is most famous.
15. Before She Was Harriet, by Lesa Cline-Ransome
This multi-award-winning picture book combines gorgeous poetry and stunning watercolor illustrations to tell the story of Tubman’s life. It begins with her as an old woman, traveling backward in time to visit herself in the many roles she played throughout history.
Looking for more inspiring books to share with your students? Check out our list of Martin Luther King Jr. books for all ages.