Harriet Tubman appears “proud” and “beautiful” in a newly-unearthed photo of the famed slave abolitionist. The previously unseen post-Civil War image was said to have been taken when Tubman was in her 40s and living in Auburn, New York.
“There’s no doubt in my mind about the provenance of the photo and that it is Tubman,” said Dr. Kate Larson, historian and author of the biography Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero. “I had never run across it.”
Over her 20 years of research, Larson says that she’s received dozens of photos of black women that claimed to be never-before-see photos of Tubman. None of the images proved to be authentic, until now.
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The newfound photo was discovered in an album owned by Tubman’s friend and fellow abolitionist, Emily Howland.
Born in Maryland in 1820, Tubman escaped slavery in her late 20s, and fled to Philadelphia. She returned to Maryland to free her family members, and would spend the next decade leading hundreds of slaves to freedom.
During the Civil War, Tubman worked in the Union Army, as a spy and scout. In 1863, she became the first woman to lead an army expedition in the war, freeing more than 700 slaves in the the Raid at Combahee Ferry.
New York City’s auction house, Swann Galleries, will auction off the photograph of Tubman on March 30.
“What’s remarkable about this photograph is that she’s so proud and dignified and beautiful. She looks so young,” Larson noted. “This is the vibrant young Tubman just coming off her work during the Civil War. She’s building her life with her family in Auburn.”
She added, “This photo surprised me, and I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people.”