Story+ Project

Photographic Life of Harriet: Tubman’s Life in Pictures


For Harriet Tubman’s 1868 carte-de-visit she sits in a full gingham-patterned skirt with her textured coifs parted down the middle. Tubman’s image appears in the album of Emily Howland, a white abolitionist and teacher, whose photograph collection included respectable-looking African American teachers, veterans and politicians. The photograph taken by Benjamin Powelson, in his Auburn, New York studio, features Tubman as we have never seen her—as a muse and not just a military genius. This Story+ project explores the visual life of Harriet Tubman in diverse illustrations of the abolitionist. Students working on this project will organize the visual archive of Tubman’s representation from photographs she took during her lifetime, but to also her image in public memory, including statues, memorials, museums, murals and fine art by canonic artists to include Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, Alison Saar as well as Glen Ligon.

Students should have

  • Good writing skills
  • Familiarity with history and criticism of visual culture
  • Coursework across the humanities
  • Research background in visual sources a plus
  • Interest in scholarship surrounding imagery of African Americans
Project Sponsor(s): 

Jasmine Nichole Cobb, PhD Bacca Foundation Associate Professor African & African American Studies and Art, Art History and Visual Studies

Graduate Mentor(s): 

Amanda Bennett, PhD Candidate


Ye Ji (Annie) Han, Veronica Niamba, Daniella Welton


The team created the The Photographic Life of Harriet Tubman website to illustrate their work and research findings.

Artist: Horatio Seymour Squyer, December 1905. National Portrait Gallery. Public Domain.


  • Visual Media
  • Documentary
  • Civil Rights
  • African American Studies