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Found: A Long-Lost Photo of Harriet Tubman

The post-Civil War photo shows her in her 40s.

An unrecorded photo of Harriet Tubman, circa 1860s
An unrecorded photo of Harriet Tubman, circa 1860s Courtesy Swann Auction Galleries

In the photo, Harriet Tubman is still relatively young, perhaps in her early or mid-forties. She would live into her 90s, and many of the photos of her show her as an older woman. In this photo, which sat unknown in a photo album for decades, Tubman is in her prime, perhaps enjoying the respite from her work guiding slaves to freedom.

“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,” Kate Clifford Larson, a Tubman biographer, told The Citizen, a paper based in Auburn, New York.

Before the Civil War began, Tubman bought a piece of land in Auburn. The photo was found in a photo album that once belonged to Emily Howland, an abolitionist and friend of Tubman.

The photo is being auctioned as part of an album by New York City’s Swann Galleries in March, along with checks signed by Martin Luther King, Jr., and a speech by Frederick Douglass. According to the auction house, the photo was discovered by one of their specialists; the album includes images of other abolitionists and 19th century political figures.