The Harriet Tubman Home is on a mission to preserve the legacy of its namesake, abolitionist and Civil War spy Harriet Tubman, after a newly discovered and extremely rare photo of Tubman surfaced and is set to be auctioned off by New York City auction house Swann Galleries.

In response, the Harriet Tubman Home, 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 nonprofit’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’s picture home.

The photo, believed to have been owned by Tubman’s dear friend and fellow abolitionist Emily Howland and taken just after the end of the Civil War, is scheduled to go on the auction block in less than 4 weeks and shows a much younger Tubman (estimated to be 43-46 years old) than seen previously. According to leading Tubman biographer Dr. Kate Clifford Larson, who authenticated the photo, the icon is shown “young and vibrant, unadorned and beautiful, at a time never before seen in her extraordinary life.”

In addition to the 40-something age in which Tubman is seen in the photo set to be auctioned, its rarity comes also from the fact that so few of them exist. Having successfully escaped from the Eastern Shore of Maryland in 1849, Tubman needed to be extremely careful not to have her photograph taken, as she was actively sought by bounty hunters.

photo via Swann Galleries on
photo via Swann Galleries on

Karen V. Hill, President & CEO of the Harriet Tubman Home, Inc. believes the new photo is a vital piece of the history and should rest in its rightful place. “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 Hill. “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.”

The Harriet Tubman Home has received little outside financial funding in its 113 year history, so help in purchasing the photo is critical. 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 campaign goes live tomorrow, Tuesday, March 7th, three days before the 104th anniversary of Tubman’s death. It will run on Women You Should Fund, a 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.”