Harriet Tubman's Amazing Grace

A hymnal owned by the brave leader of the Underground Railroad brings new insights into the life of the American heroine

In 1849, Harriet Tubman fled Maryland to Philadelphia. Soon after, Tubman began her exploits—acts of bravery that would make her a legend. (Library of Congress)
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He acquired the hymnal, the Victoria shawl, several rare photographs and other items as a bequest from Meriline Wilkins, Tubman’s great-great-niece who died at age 92 in 2008. The hymnal had belonged to Tubman’s great-niece, Eva S. Northrup. “[Meriline] said to me once, ‘I’m going to give you something one of these days,’” Blockson recalls. “But when the hymnal turned out to be one of the things she left to me, it was awesome to receive it. And it had to go to Washington, where it may attract other Tubman items.”

The gospel song “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” which is in the hymnal, was among Tubman’s favorites. Says Blockson: “They sang it at her funeral.”

Owen Edwards is a freelance writer and author of the book Elegant Solutions.

About Owen Edwards
Owen Edwards

Owen Edwards is a freelance writer who previously wrote the "Object at Hand" column in Smithsonian magazine.

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