The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has acquired a collection of artifacts documenting the life and work of abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Tubman, born into slavery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, gained international acclaim as an Underground Railroad operator, Civil War spy and suffragist. Items from the Tubman collection were unveiled at a ceremony on Capitol Hill coinciding with the anniversary of Tubman’s death March 10, 1913.
Photo: A photograph from the 1880s of Harriet Tubman (left) with some she helped to escape from slavery, along with members of their families.
The collection includes photographs, correspondence, photo-post cards, manuscripts of speeches, souvenir programs from dedication services, household items and clothing accessories.
Among the items shedding light on the private life of Tubman are family photographs, a hymn book published in 1876 and signed in pencil by Tubman, and a lace shawl (circa 1897) given to her by England’s Queen Victoria. Among the photographs of Tubman’s funeral March 11, 1913, is one showing her lying in state at A.M.E. Zion Church in Auburn, N.Y., and surrounded by seven members of the board of directors of the Harriet Tubman Home.
The Harriet Tubman collection is a gift to NMAAHC from Charles L. Blockson, writer, historian and former board member of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. He also is founder and curator of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection of rare texts, slave narratives, art and other historically significant artifacts. The items came to him after the death of a Tubman relative.
“I inherited her belongings and for eight months I kept them with me in my bedroom, but they belong in this museum,” Blockson said of the Smithsonian’s African American museum. “Harriet Tubman is one of the most important women in the history of America, and her story needs to be heard by generations to come.”
For more information about the Harriet Tubman collection, visit the official website of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
National Museum of African American History and Culture
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