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A Newly Surfaced Photo of Harriet Tubman Is Going to Auction


One of the most widely recognized images of the abolitionist, circa 1870. HB Lindsey/Underwood Archives/Getty Images
One of the most widely recognized images of the abolitionist, circa 1870. HB Lindsey/Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Harriet Tubman's legacy of defiance and bravery doesn't require an Instagram account to remain legendary. Still, the discovery of a never-before-seen image of Tubman, younger than she usually is in photos, is pretty exciting stuff. Even better, the image can be yours, if the price is right, at a March 30 auction at New York City-based Swann Galleries. Check out the picture below:

Only a handful of known images of Tubman are currently in circulation, which isn't surprising given that cell phone cameras and selfie sticks were still a long way off when she was alive. The newly found pic depicts Tubman circa 1865-68, just after the conclusion of the Civil War, making her between 43 and 46 years old. (Her exact birth date isn't known.) Most other pictures of Tubman, whose birth name was Araminta Ross, were snapped between the late 1800s and her death in 1913.

The photo provides a timely visual of Tubman just after the period she spent squiring slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Seated and sporting a fashionable full white patterned skirt, black blouse and overlapping white collar, the petite woman is in stark contrast with her larger-than-life legacy. It also illustrates how the small, easy-to-overlook woman could move virtually undetected around the country as a Union spy and scout. In fact, she provided valuable intelligence regarding locations of ammunition depots, cotton warehouses and slaves, which led to several successful raids by the Union.

The photo was discovered in an album that Emily Howland, one of Tubman's friends and fellow activists, previously owned. The entire photo album, which includes two photos of Tubman, has an estimated value of $20,000–$30,000. Tubman historian and author Dr. Kate Clifford Larson said in a story published by Auburnpub.com that she has received many potential photos of the abolitionist over the years, but this is the first that actually depicts Tubman, much to her joy. "There's no doubt in my mind about the provenance of the photo and that it is Tubman," she said. "I had never run across it."