Harriet Tubman has many titles. Therese Taylor-Stinson’s new book Walking the Way of Harriet Tubman: Public Mystic and Freedom Fighter introduces readers to the mystical side of the Underground Railroad’s most famous conductor.
Not to be confused with following in her footsteps, this is not a mapped-out excursion through the places important to Tubman’s life. Instead, Taylor-Stinson invites readers to consider the interior life of Tubman, the “sound of the genuine” within, which grounded her as she led at least 70 people to freedom during chattel slavery in America.
Following the North Star, Tubman also relied on her Christian faith and African Indigenous mysticism, which is centered in communal uplift and a shared sense of well-being. Described as a public mystic, Tubman defied the unjust laws of her day due to a deep and abiding sense of internal freedom.
What is a mystic, you ask? “By mystic, I mean a person who dwells mentally and internally in the spiritual realm, one who seeks by contemplation and self- surrender unity with the Divine and who believes and adheres to the spiritual apprehension of truths whose source is beyond mere intellect,” Taylor-Stinson explains.
Tubman made it public when she shared her desire for freedom with the community and showed them a path to it — sight unseen but each step miraculously planned.
Walking the Way of Harriet Tubman: Public Mystic and Freedom Fighter is a vision that will leave the reader entranced and ready to take the hand of Tubman as a public mystic. But first, the reader must understand freedom’s terrain, which is offered in the chapter, “Understanding the Mystical Road to Freedom.”
There is also “Harriet’s Apothecary,” which provides the reader with a mix of spiritual practices throughout the book. Then, there are a few conditions as outlined in “Conditions for Freedom: How to Be a Public Mystic.” To be sure, there is no turning back with Harriet who once put a gun to her brother’s head and said, “You’ll be free or die!”
Weaved into Harriet’s story, each chapter moves you from discerning if you want to be free in “Who Seeks Freedom?” to confirming your dreams of autonomy in “Dreaming of Freedom” to ensuring that you do not travel alone in “Networks to Freedom.”
When it is all said and done, you will need audacious bravery and Taylor-Stinson offers you that in “The Courage for Freedom.” Her words grip you and pull you through while praying you along.
Tubman prayed all the way to freedom as shared in “Prayers Along the Way to Freedom.” Sure of her calling and whose direction she was following, Harriet said, “Twasn’t me, ‘twas the Lord! I always told Him, ‘I trust you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect you to lead me,’ an’ He always did. I prayed to God to make me strong and able to fight, and that’s what I’ve always prayed for ever since.”
Come this way, reader. Those same word-hands are ready to receive you in “Embracing Freedom.” Taylor-Stinson says it is Harriet’s life’s work: “After deeply accepting herself as one called by God, Harriet built relationships that uncovered for her the Underground Railroad.” This is why internal freedom is crucial.
In “The Mystical Road of Freedom,” the book closes with a reminder to keep walking, doing the inner and communal work of freedom, and sharing your “mystical gifts” with your communities.
From cover to cover, each page moves the reader closer in the freedom journey. According to Taylor-Stinson, Tubman is not done making trips, so pick up this book and take her hand. “Harriet still has the power to lead us to freedom.”