On March 30th, a newly discovered and extremely rare photo of courageous abolitionist and Civil War spy Harriet Tubman (c.1822 – March 10, 1913) is set to be auctioned off by New York City auction house Swann Galleries. In response, the Harriet Tubman Home, a 32-acre newly designated national historical site in Auburn, New York, which survives on minimal donations to keep the homestead on which Tubman lived for more than 50 years open to the public, is launching its first-ever crowdfunding campaign, #BringHarrietHome. Set to go live on Tuesday, March 7th, the non-profit’s goal is to inspire the wide and generous support of the public so it can raise the funds necessary to participate in the auction as a competitive bidder and bring Harriet home.
The young Harriet photo is part of an album that was recently happened upon by a private citizen. Believed to have been owned by Tubman’s dear friend and fellow abolitionist Emily Howland, the photo album, and all of its contents (including Harriet), are scheduled to go on the auction block, as a single lot, in less than 4 weeks. What’s historically “remarkable” about this photo, which has been authenticated by leading Tubman biographer Dr. Kate Clifford Larson, is that it shows a much younger Tubman (estimated to be 43-46 years old) than we’ve seen, to date, in the very few photos that do exist of her. Presumed to have been taken at a local photography studio in Auburn, New York, circa 1866-1868, shortly after the end of the Civil War, the photo shows Harriet, young and vibrant, unadorned and beautiful, at a time never before seen in her extraordinary life.
“Of the 60,000 artifacts representing Harriet’s life and work that we house and cherish on our property here in Auburn, this photo would be the most significant acquisition of our collection, by far,” said Karen V. Hill, President & CEO of the Harriet Tubman Home, Inc. “But with an auction house now involved in the sale of this photographic treasure, which is expected to fetch $20,000 – $30,000, we are painfully aware that there is a real dollars and cents cost attached to bringing Harriet home.”
In the non-profit’s 113 year effort to preserve Tubman’s legacy and mission, the Harriet Tubman Home has received little outside financial funding. Hill explained, “Harriet’s homestead has relied primarily on the giving of funds from the descendants of slaves, and on a small number of public and philanthropic contributions.” She added, “Based on our excruciatingly limited resources, we simply don’t have the money to have a seat at this very high-priced auction table. So we need the public’s support to be there and to bring Harriet home, where she rightfully belongs.”
The #BringHarrietHome crowdfunding campaign goes live Tuesday, March 7th, three days before the 104th anniversary of Tubman’s death. It will run on Women You Should Fund, the new crowdfunding platform for women from the founders of Women You Should Know. Co-founder Jen Jones shared, “We cannot think of a more historically significant and synergistic campaign to debut on our platform, especially during Women’s History Month. It’s a privilege to work hand in hand with the Harriet Tubman Home on this determined attempt to bring such an important piece of Harriet Tubman’s legacy home, where it’s meant to be.”
#BringHarrietHome is endorsed by Women On 20s, the historic campaign launched by Barbara Ortiz Howard and Susan Ades Stone that resulted in a public vote calling for Harriet Tubman to replace Andrew Jackson on the U.S. $20 bill. Subsequently, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew selected Harriet Tubman to be on the newly designed $20, which is set to be unveiled in 2020, the centennial of the 19th Amendment establishing women’s suffrage.
In addition to the 40-something age in which Harriet Tubman is seen in the photo set to be auctioned, its rarity comes also from the fact that so few of Tubman exist. Having successfully escaped from the Eastern Shore of Maryland in the late fall of 1849, Harriet needed to be extremely careful not to have her photograph taken, as she was actively sought by bounty hunters. Nevertheless, she persisted in directly rescuing nearly 70 enslaved black men and women in the South, and guiding another 60 or 70 others to freedom in the North, as the fearless conductor of the Underground Railroad from 1850 to 1860.
Of the deeper meaning behind the #BringHarrietHome crowdfunding campaign, Hill noted, “When we bring Harriet home through the generosity of others we are answering the call of freedom.”
The Harriet Tubman Home, Inc. is an independent 501(c)(3) established by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, known historically as the Freedom Church, to manage and operate Tubman’s homestead. The 32-acre national historical site located in Auburn, New York lays testimony to Harriet Tubman’s extraordinary legacy. The esteemed designation as a National Historical Park is recent, occurring in early January 2017. As funding to provide some support for this park has not been established, it is and will continue to be preserved and operated by limited staff and volunteers, along with the financial generosity of contributions from individuals and organizations. Therefore, the help of the public is necessary to maintain this venerable site, on which Harriet Tubman lived and died as a Free American, and to protect the important artifacts it holds. The Harriet Tubman Home remains steadfast as a living tribute to the astonishing ‘Road to Freedom’ this courageous woman enshrined. (Harriet Tubman Home)
Women You Should Fund is a rewards-based crowdfunding platform brought to you by the founders of Women You Should Know, a leading digital hub of women’s and girls’ empowerment. After more than 5 years supporting and celebrating women, using the power of storytelling and story sharing to inspire a dynamic and evergrowing social community, they’ve expanded their mission. Women You Should Fund sets entrepreneurial ideas into motion by helping women and women-led teams make their products, projects, and business ventures a reality. (Women You Should Fund).