Popular Culture Review Vol. 28, No. 2, Summer 2017 - Page 37

represents much more than a lack of reading and writing. Her unwritten "words" symbolize the language and freedoms withheld from generations of African Americans, as well as the non- conventional language substitutions needed for safety and survival. The challenge of proper tribute, then, is reliant on future generations who must find the proper words to document a private woman whose societal aims intentionally avoided traditional literary prints. A range of scholars have attempted to "write" their own different representations of Tubman, born Araminta "Minty" Ross in 1822, on the plantation of Anthony Thompson in Dorchester County ("Harriet Ross Tubman Davis") on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Beverly Lowry is an example of an author who has found a creative way to come to terms with the complex issue of documenting a life that was lived without writing or records, as evidenced in Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life. Lowry explains how “Tubman’s illiteracy certainly presents a problem for scholars looking for primary material. Beyond government records, court documents, property assessments, and census figures, everything we have has been interpreted or—as historians say— mediated, even when the writer interviewed Tubman directly or took down a dictated letter” (7). Lowry’s project, to write a book length biography about Tubman by piecing together known documentation and publications, is a possible version of “what life might [author's emphasis] have been like for the American hero Harriet Tubman” (1), including her actions and communication in Baltimore. Lowry admits that “[t]his book does not pretend to be a work of intense scholarship,” but “the story of a life as I have studied and reimagined it” (1). The intersection of research and imagination remains a crossroads which must be admitted and addressed when handling lives and words lacking primary record. As Lowry reinforces, the personal aims and stakes of the researcher inherently become a part of the historical retelling. In Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, and History, Milton C. Sernett takes a slightly different approach than Lowry in his desire to remove the “lady” from the “legend” of Harriet Tubman and to locate “the remembered Tubman—that is . . . the myth that draws on the factual core but is often in tension with it” (3). Sernett argues that “Tubman may be America’s most malleable icon[;]” however, she holds unmalleable “significance for . . . how we are to remember the nation’s struggle with the issue of slavery” (3). Tubman's malleability, while complex in its traditional historical context, actually welcomes a widening of her universality and creates a larger setting for the framework of personalized public histories. “By learning of Harriet Tubman and her place in the American memory,” Sernett asserts, “we learn about ourselves as the 32