Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in Maryland in the early 1820s. She escaped and became one of our nation’s most famous abolitionists, who led hundreds of other slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad. She was also a nurse and a spy who led a successful campaign to liberate 727 slaves during the Civil War. Most pictures of her were taken about ten to twenty years later, but this new photo shows Tubman as a much younger woman.
Mic reports that new image was discovered by historian Kate Clifford Larson, who saw the image in the photo album of Emily Howland, friend and fellow abolitionist. According to Auburnpub, the photo was taken in Auburn, New York, where Tubman bought land in 1859 from Senator William H. Seward. That land was recently named the Harriet Tubman National Park. The photo is up for auction at Swann Galleries on March 30.
Larson is the author of the biography Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero, and places Tubman’s age in the new photo somewhere between 43 and 46. Larson says, “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.”
Biography reports that Tubman worried that because of her size (she was only 5 feet 2 inches tall) and the many physical ailments caused by the abuse of her oppressors, she’d be valued as less as a slave and consequently be in more danger in the South than she had been when she was younger. Tubman initially escaped Maryland in 1849, traveling the 90 miles on her own to Philadelphia after her brothers had second thoughts and returned to the plantation. She said of crossing into the North:
“When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”
Tubman made that trip over and over again, to help both her family and many, many others to freedom. Following the war, she lived on her Auburn property with other family members, and married a Civil War veteran named Nelson Davis in 1869. They adopted a child named Gertie.
Tubman never had much money, despite her fame and contributions during the war, but she was generous with what she had. In the early 1900s, she donated some of her land to the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Auburn and The Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged opened there in 1908. She died in 1913 from pneumonia in the home named in her honor, surrounded by friends and family.