Popular Culture Review Vol. 28, No. 2, Summer 2017 - Page 39

Tubman went to work on a timber gang, exhibiting great skills laboring in the logging camps and in the fields. There she was exposed to the secret communication networks that were the province of black watermen and other free and enslaved blacks” (65). Hidden communication was created out of necessity, when public and/or direct discourse was not an option, as (un)written words delivered the thoughts, support, and instructions needed for survival. Tubman's success in navigating the Underground Railroad hinged on her ability to see and read beyond traditional legal, literacy, and geographical levels. Her (un)written words, ultimately, enabled her to re-route history. How, then, does Baltimore claim personal connection to Tubman, when, as Sernett asserts, she is “no longer tied to any particular place” (291)? Sernett suggests that Tubman’s “story can be told in geographic settings far removed from the grounded Tubman of the United States and Canada,” as “[s]he has become a citizen of the world” (291). One source that helps in establishing Tubman’s hidden communication within Baltimore is Harriet Tubman and The Underground Railroad, a section of the Baltimore Legends and Legacies website, which states: In December 1850, Harriett Tubman conducted her first rescue mission. Her niece, Kessiah Jolley Bowley and her two children were set to be auctioned to the highest bidder at the [Cambridge] County Courthouse. Kessiah’s free husband, John Bowley, devised a plan with Tubman to bring Kessiah and the children away before they could be sold. On the day of the auction, John bid on his wife and children, even though he did not have the money to pay for them. Before the auctioneer could call for payment, John quickly and safely hid his family in a nearby home. That night, he secretly sailed them to the Fell’s Point waterfront in Baltimore where Tubman hid them until she was able to safely bring them to Philadelphia. (“Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad”) While there will never be comprehensive proof of Tubman’s time and hidden communication in Baltimore, Baltimore Legends and Legacies provides a travelable series of historical and geographical sites that map Tubman’s life with tangible markers via “The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway.” 2 However, Baltimore is not included in the Byway; instead, it is presented as a possible side trip or detour to take if one has time. 2 “The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway” shares the remarkable stories of freedom seekers who risked their lives to escape slavery in the 1800’s. With more than 30 sites that include the newly designated Harriet 34