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Essay On Dorothy Sterling

Summary:  Let my people go!  Born into slavery, young Harriet Tubman knew only hard work and hunger.  Escape seemed impossible -- certainly dangerous.  Yet Harriet was strong-willed and couragous.  "Some day," she said, "I'm going to be free."

When finally she did escape North, by the secret route called the "Underground Railroad," Harriet didn't forget her people.  Again and again she risked her life to lead them on the same secret, dangerous journey.

Freedom Train  is the exciting, true story of Harriet Tubman's bold and daring life.  (Summary from book - Image from www.goodreads.com)

My Review:  I was really excited to read this book to my older girls.  We’ve been reading a great deal about boggarts, mermaids, and enchantments lately and I decided it was high time I read them something real.  Something with meaning.

Freedom Train tells the true story of Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave who made her way to freedom on the famed Underground Railroad, only to return repeatedly and, like a female Moses, lead many more of her people out of bondage.  Her life was truly remarkable.  My children listened to her story quietly with wide, disbelieving eyes and clamored for more whenever I finished a chapter. 

Harriet’s thirst for freedom, rebellious spirit, and unfailing determination were inspiring, but her life as a slave was unfair and often brutal.  This worried my girls.  Occasionally, I had to stop and explain the more unpleasant aspects of U.S. history and why people were treating Harriet and other slaves so badly.  I didn’t mind these moments, and enjoyed the opportunity to teach lessons to my kids on the importance of equality, sacrifice, and courage.

I found the story of Harriet’s escape and many of her return trips to be quite fascinating, but partway through when Harriet began to contribute in other ways, as a spokesperson and Union soldier, the book took on a slightly drier tone and my daughters lost some of that light in their eyes.  They still tuned in occasionally when Harriet did something particularly interesting, but I could tell they weren’t as interested.  I think that an older reader would probably be fine. 

Freedom Train is one of those books that I believe everyone should read.  It’s not an amazing book, in and of itself, but it is a wonderful tribute to the life of a true American heroine.

Kaisa (age eight) says:  I thought that it was a good book because it teaches you history.  I thought that Harriet Tubman was a great person and she acted like a hero.

Sophie (age six) says:  It was a really good story and I liked it when she tried to join the army and also I liked when she was good girl.  I liked the things that she did.  And that’s all I have to say.

My Rating:  4 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  This book discusses the difficult issue of slavery, racism, and basic human cruelty.  I felt these issues were handled with care and presented in a way that might make children rightfully concerned, but not traumatized.  There were also two instances of profanity in this book – biblical, of course, but used in an exclamatory fashion.

Sum it up:  An inspiring story of one woman’s courage, sacrifice, and irrepressible spirit.
Dorothy Sterling
BornDorothy Dannenberg
(1913-11-23)November 23, 1913
New York City
DiedDecember 1, 2008(2008-12-01) (aged 95)
Wellfleet, Massachusetts
OccupationWriter and journalist
Spouse(s)Philip Sterling
ChildrenAnne Fausto-Sterling, Peter Sterling

Dorothy Sterling (née Dannenberg) (November 23, 1913 – December 1, 2008) was an American writer and historian. After college, she worked as a journalist and writer in New York for several years, including work for the Federal Writers’ Project.[1]

In 1937 she married Philip Sterling (died 1989), also a writer.[1] Her daughter, Anne Fausto-Sterling, is a noted biologist, the Nancy Duke Lewis Professor of Biology and Gender Studies at Brown University, and is married to playwright Paula Vogel.[2]


Sterling worked for Time from 1936 to 1949 and was then assistant bureau chief in Life’s news bureau from 1944 to 1949.[3]

Starting in the 1950s, she authored more than 30 books, mainly non-fiction historical works for children on the origins of the women's and anti-slavery movements, civil rights, segregation, and nature, as well as mysteries.


Sterling belonged to the Communist Party USA in the 1940s. Even after leaving the party, she said socialism was her long-term goal.[4] Political leanings may explain political action later in life. In early 1968, Sterling and her husband joined 448 writers and editors in placing a full-page ad in the New York Post declaring their intention to refuse to pay taxes for the Vietnam War.[5] In 1984, she challenged President Ronald Reagan's decision to award the Medal of Freedom to Whittaker Chambers, writing, "With all due respect to the dead, is this man, who has left behind him so many doubts about his own role, an appropriate recipient of the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award?"[3]



(1951) Sophie and Her Puppies
(1955) The story of mosses, ferns, and mushrooms
(1961) Ellen's Blue Jays
(1961) Caterpillars
(1966) Fall is Here!
(1967) The Outer Lands Natural History Guide to Cape Cod & Islands by Dorothy Sterling and Winifred Lubell


(1952) The Cub Scout Mystery
(1955) The Brownie Scout Mystery
(1958) The Silver Spoon Mystery by Dorothy Sterling
(1960) Secret of the Old Post-Box
(1971) Mystery of the Empty House (Org. Secret of the Old Post Box) by Dorothy Sterling and Jane Goldsborough

Black History and Civil Rights

(1953) United Nations, N. Y.
(1954) Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman
(1959) "Mary Jane"
(1963) Forever free: The story of the Emancipation Proclamation
(1964) Lucretia Mott
(1965) Lift Every Voice: The Lives of Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Mary Church Terrell and James Weldon Johnson
(1969) Tear Down the Walls!: A History of the American Civil Rights Movement
(1978) Captain of the Planter: The Story of Robert Smalls
(1984) We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century
(1994) The Trouble They Seen: Story of Reconstruction in the Words of African Americans
(1994) Ahead of Her Time: Abby Kelly and the Politics of Antislavery
(1996) The Making of an Afro-American: Martin Robison Delany 1812-1885
(1998) Speak Out in Thunder Tones


(2005) Close to My Heart: An Autobiography


  • Inclusion in the 1960-1961 William Allen White Children's Book Award Masterlist of Captain of the Planter: The Story of Robert Smalls[6]
  • 1977 Carter G. Woodson Book Award winner for The Trouble They Seen: Story of Reconstruction in the Words of African Americans[7]


External links[edit]

  1. ^ abGrimes, William (5 December 2008). "Dorothy Sterling, 95, Children's Author, Dies". New York Times. Retrieved 23 October 2011. 
  2. ^"Paula Vogel, Anne Fausto-Sterling". The New York Times. 2004-09-26. Retrieved 2007-07-21. 
  3. ^ abSterling, Dorothy (8 February 1984). "Whittaker Chambers: Odd Choice for the Medal of Freedom". New York Times. Retrieved 23 October 2011. 
  4. ^Woo, Elaine (14 December 2008). "Dorothy Sterling, author of African American children's literature, dies at 95". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 October 2012. 
  5. ^"History of War Tax Resistance". Writers and Editors War Tax Protest Names. Retrieved 23 October 2011. 
  6. ^"1960-1961 William Allen White Children's Book Award Masterlist". www.emporia.edu. Emporia State University. Retrieved 17 October 2015. 
  7. ^"Carter G. Woodson Book Award and Honor Winners: 1977 Award Winner". www.socialstudies.org. National Council for the Social Studies. Retrieved 17 October 2015. 

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