Bring Harriet Home

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Thanks to everyone who so generously supported our campaign to #BringHarrietHome. Her photo and the album in which it was found did indeed go up on the auction block this morning and while we went armed with a healthy maximum bid thanks to each and every one of your contributions, the winning big came in at $130,000. So while we have been unsuccessful in bringing Harriet home today, the love and support shown by all of you is truly invaluable to us and will last forever. We will be back in touch, via email, when the campaign ends on April 6th to let you know about next steps, as outlined below.

“Slavery is the next thing to hell.” - Harriet Tubman, in 1855

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, we, 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, have launched #BringHarrietHome, our first-ever crowdfunding campaign.

While it is not in our power to take Harriet off the auction block and stop this public sale from happening, we hope to inspire you to make a generous pledge to our campaign. Reaching our minimum goal of $25,000 will enable us to participate as an active and competitive bidder on this rescue mission. Together, we can #BringHarrietHome.

By helping us raise the money needed to bid on this photo and bring Harriet home, know that we are collectively aligning ourselves with the work of Tubman herself. Harriet used the money she earned in the north to finance her campaigns to free her niece, Kessiah and her children. Tubman gave Kessiah's husband, a free man, the money for him to buy them off of the auction block in Maryland. Harriet then led them to freedom.

When we bring Harriet home through your generosity we are all answering the call of freedom.

The Photo

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.

The rarity of this photo 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.

“I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can't say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.” Harriet Tubman at a suffrage convention in 1896

Help Us Preserve Harriet’s Legacy

While we can appreciate that the finder’s compensation for discovering and sharing this photo of Harriet Tubman is warranted, we are resolute in our belief that there is no dollar amount that can match the incalculable value that will come from having it properly preserved in our archives at her home in Auburn.

Of the 60,000 artifacts representing Harriet’s life and work that we house and cherish on our property, this photo would be the most significant acquisition of our collection, by far. 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 Harriet Tubman Home’s 113 year effort to preserve Tubman’s legacy and mission, 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. Based on our excruciatingly limited resources, we simply don’t have the money to have a seat at this very high-priced auction table.

But we are hopeful that through the generous pledges of people like you who believe in honoring Tubman’s life and work, you can help us raise the money we need to take our rightful seat at that table and #BringHarrietHome to where she rightfully belongs.

What happens to your #BringHarrietHome pledges if we are outbid at the auction?

If #BringHarrietHome is successful and reaches its goal by our campaign end date, we will have the funds we need to be a competitive bidder at the auction. However, there is always a chance that we could be outbid and therefore, unsuccessful in acquiring the photo.

Should this unfortunate and devastating situation occur, anyone who has pledged money to our campaign will be given the following 2 choices:

1. your pledge transaction will NOT be processed and your credit card will NOT be charged

2. your generous pledge can be left in place and your transaction processed. In making this choice, you will be supporting the myriad of additional needs the Harriet Tubman Home has in accomplishing the work we do to preserve her legacy and mission. Your pledged funds would then be used for the following critical projects:

Harriet Tubman Home Docent Education & Training - this will allow us to complete the revisions to our current homestead tour and train all of our docents on the new program.

Restoration of the Tubman Brick Residence - In 1880 Harriet Tubman’s house was destroyed by fire. Nelson Davis, Tubman’s second husband, was a brick maker and rebuilt her house in the same spot on which the original wood structure stood. Harriet lived in this brick residence for over 30 years until her death in 1913, and it is considered the crown jewel of the Underground Railroad. In recent years, her brick residence has been in desperate need of restoration, so we began a restoration project that is now 50% complete (the majority of the exterior work). Contributed funds would be used to help us continue our restoration work on the home's interior.

Why does the campaign end after date of the auction?

Since the winning bid does not need to be paid on the day of the auction, running our campaign for a full 30 days will allow us to continue crowdfunding for 8 days past the actual auction. We hope to not only meet our crowdfunding goal but exceed it, so that we have more of a cushion headed in to the auction and will also have the funds necessary to cover the 25% buyer’s premium Swann Galleries will charge the winning bidder.

#BringHarrietHome is making news headlines

Since launching on March 7th, our #BringHarrietHome campaign has caught the attention of the news media and continues to make national headlines. Here are just four of the nearly 30 features our campaign has received, to date.

Mashable: The internet wants to bring a rare picture of Harriet Tubman back to her homestead

Hyperallergic: Crowdfunding Campaign Aims to Bring Rare Photo of Harriet Tubman Home

Makers: Donate to the Harriet Tubman Home to #BringHarrietHome and Preserve Her Legacy

Ebony: Foundation Raises Funds to Save Photo of Harriet Tubman

While all of this is wonderful and leaves us feeling incredibly grateful, we implore you to please continue to share our campaign link with your friends so we can keep the momentum going and #BringHarrietHome!

About The Harriet Tubman Home

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.

Updates

We want to let all of you know that the album and young Harriet Tubman photo at the center of our #BringHarrietHome campaign fetched over 6 times its estimated value at the auction on March 30th. The winning bid of $161,000 (inclusive of auction fees) was placed on behalf of the Library of Congress in partnership with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture.

While our crowdfunding campaign was successful, exceeding our goal and raising over $28,000 thanks to generous supporters like you, it ultimately was not enough to bring Harriet home. But I want to thank you again so very much for lending your generous support to our determined effort.

Since we were not successful at the auction, pledges made to our #BringHarrietHome campaign will not be processed or charged unless you specify that you would still like to leave your pledge with the Harriet Tubman Home. If you choose to do this then your credit card will be charged for the amount you pledged, and if you contributed to a specific reward level your reward will be fulfilled.

In this case, your contribution will be used to support the myriad of additional needs we, the Harriet Tubman Home, have in accomplishing the work we do to preserve her legacy and mission. Specifically, your pledged funds will be used for the following critical projects:

Harriet Tubman Home Docent Education & Training - this will allow us to complete the revisions to our current homestead tour and train all of our docents on the new program.

Restoration of the Tubman Brick Residence - In 1880 Harriet Tubman’s house was destroyed by fire. Nelson Davis, Tubman’s second husband, was a brick maker and rebuilt her house in the same spot on which the original wood structure stood. Harriet lived in this brick residence for over 30 years until her death in 1913, and it is considered the crown jewel of the Underground Railroad. In recent years, her brick residence has been in desperate need of restoration, so we began a restoration project that is now 50% complete (the majority of the exterior work). Contributed funds would be used to help us continue our restoration work on the home's interior.

With sincere gratitude,

Karen V. Hill
President & CEO
Harriet Tubman Home, Inc.

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