Black ExperienceBlack History

Harriet Tubman Portrait to be Unveiled at Smithsonian

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will display for the first time the Emily Howland photography album, containing an unearthed portrait of abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman.

The photograph is one of 49 19th-century images in the Emily Howland photography album, jointly owned by the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Library of Congress.

“This photo album allows us to see Harriet Tubman in a riveting, new way; other iconic portraits present her as either stern or frail,” said Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the museum.

“This new photograph shows her relaxed and very stylish. Sitting with her arm casually draped across the back of a parlor chair, she’s wearing an elegant bodice and a full skirt with a fitted waist,” Bunch said. “Her posture and facial expression remind us that historical figures are far more complex than most people realize. This adds significantly to what we know about this fierce abolitionist. And that’s a good thing.”

The Howland album will be the museum’s first acquisition to be displayed in Heritage Hall, the museum’s main entry hall, where it will be on exhibit Monday, March 25, through Sunday, March 31. The exhibit will then be relocated to the “Slavery and Freedom” exhibition in the museum’s History Gallery, where it will remain on display.

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