More than a century after Harriet Tubman died in March of 1913, the Library of Congress announced on Tuesday that it has conserved and digitized a previously unrecorded portrait of the “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, the secret network that helped fugitive slaves in the South get to freedom in the North.
Catalogers believe that the photograph was taken between 1867 and 1869, when she lived in Auburn, N.Y., where Tubman — who had herself escaped from bondage in 1849 — took care of fugitive slaves in their old age.
“Other iconic portraits present her as either stern or frail,” Lonnie G. Bunch III, the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, said in a statement. “This new photograph shows her relaxed and very stylish.”
The fact that she’s seated in a parlor chair sporting a lace collar and elegant bodice reflects a deliberate way she carried herself at the time. As TIME has previously reported, she often donned lace and fine clothes, believing that if she dressed respectably, then people would treat African Americans with respect. She particularly prized a lace shawl that Queen Victoria had given her in 1897.
This new portrait of Tubman was part of an album of 48 rare photographs previously owned by Emily Howland, a Quaker schoolteacher and abolitionist who lived 20 minutes south from Tubman in Sherwood, N.Y. Howland died in 1929.
The Library of Congress and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture acquired the photos, which appear to date back to the 1860s, at auction in 2017. Highlights include pictures of Charles Dickens, Former Massachusetts U.S. Senator and abolitionist Charles Sumner, the writer and abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, and the only known photograph of John Willis Menard, the first African-American man elected to Congress. The album also contained a copy of a more famous image of Tubman.
Catalogers have identified all but three of the individuals photographed. To see if you recognize the other three, view all of the images here.
- What a Photographer Saw in the West Bank
- Accenture’s Chief AI Officer on Why This Is a Defining Moment
- Inside COP28's Big 'Experiment'
- U.S. Doctors Can't Be Silent About Gaza: Column
- The Movie Wives Would Like a Word
- The 100 Must-Read Books of 2023
- The Top 100 Photos of 2023
- Want Weekly Recs on What to Watch, Read, and More? Sign Up for Worth Your Time