Popular Culture Review Vol. 28, No. 2, Summer 2017 - Page 41

alternative communication that was required to replace written words in the pursuit of safety and freedom: [I]n a world of suspicious whites, a letter could elicit unwanted attention. Like the heavily coded spirituals Tubman would later use to guide fugitive slaves north, a look, a glance, a movement, a shift of the foot, or a wave of a hand could be invisible to the white master, yet speak louder than words to fellow blacks, passing messages in times of need, when the stakes were life or death. (65–6) 6 Tubman’s unrecorded words belong to a genre that will never receive its due credit or validation—hidden communication—though the genre continues to be integral for all societal progressions. Each new decade and generation must find new ways and new language mediums to pay tribute to Tubman. When, as Frederick Douglass wrote to Tubman in 1868, only "[t]he midnight sky and silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and your heroism," (qtd. in Bradford), it is up to today's scholars to find alternative witnesses and standards to validate hidden communication, even if that communication will remain forever unwritten. (Un)Written Words: Letters between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok Eighty-four years after Tubman's first rescue mission through Baltimore, another one of America's most recognized figures sent her own secret messages through the city. Unlike Tubman, however, this woman's written words were housed inside paper envelopes and the safety of a federal postal system which prohibited interception. This woman was also functioning under a completely different set of American standards, due to her race, class, education, and the position of her marriage to the President. Additionally, unlike Tubman's (un)written words, produced for the desire for freedom, this woman's written words took cover due to their content, which expressed a desire for female intimacy. These words were mailed to the Lord Baltimore Hotel, located at 20 West Baltimore Street, one of many hidden communication hubs of Eleanor Roosevelt's and Lorena Hickok's intimate correspondence. 6 The Archives of Maryland states that “[i]n 1835 or 1836, [Brodess] managed to hire [Tubman] to John Stewart, a large plantation owner and business man who lived in the Tobacco Stock area of Dorchester County . . . The community supported a vital communication network among Chesapeake African-Americans, which [Tubman] would use extensively in her future rescues. The move also allowed [Tubman] to be closer to her father, and eventually led her to John Tubman, a free black man working in the same neighborhood” (“Harriet Ross Tubman Davis”). 36