In the inaugural sale of African-American memorabilia at Heritage Auctions (Dallas, Texas), a tintype of an African-American woman holding a book sold for $525.00. The sale took place on January 15, 2019.
An austerely dressed seated woman holding an open book. The image is reasonably sharp and beautifully shows her dress, collar, chain accessory, and facial expression.
Condition: Condition is good, with a few spots and scratches to the surface, none of which seriously mar the image. There is some wear at the top left edge, as well as some adhesive residue at the bottom left corner.
What interests me about this image is that she is holding a wide-open book in her left hand. Although images of this genre are not particularly rare, I am intrigued by the sitters very direct gaze at the viewer.
Though we have the absence of a location and date on this image the presence of the book suggests that her portrait is at least partially designed by her own self. I make this assertion because during the nineteenth-century African Americans sought to take ownership over their image, and the appearance of the book is a marker of self-determination in the area of literacy, education, and full-citizenship. Her fashion is also particularly smart — a full, delicately collared dress with a tailor-like fitting.
Looking forward to seeing the development of this Heritage sale category.
This unknown image of Harriet Tubman (1822 – 1913) at approximately 48 years of age was among a total of forty-four carte-de-visite photographs found in the album of Quaker school teacher, Emily Howland (1827-1929). The album was presented “To Miss Emily Howland, from her Friend Carrie Nichols, January 1st, 1864, Camp Todd, Virginia.” Ms. Howland, whose parents were Quaker abolitionists in New York, was a teacher at Myrtilla Miner’s School for Economically Stable Black Females in Washington during the antebellum period, and served escaped slaves in a contraband camp during the Civil War.
The album is found in the collection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian. This portrait of Harriet Tubman was made by photographer, Benjamin F. Powelson (1823 – 1885), Auburn, New York.
The album (lot 75) sold at Swann Auction Galleries’s sale of Printed and Manuscript African Americana (March 30, 2017) for $ 161,000 (including buyer’s premium). The sales estimate was $20,000-30,000. The Tubman image is the cover of the sale catalog.
Charlotte Forten [Grimke], born into a prominent Free Black family in Philadelphia, came to Port Royal, South Carolina in 1862. She taught the newly freed people for a couple of years before returning North due to declining health. In 1878 she married the much younger Rev. Francis Grimke, nephew of ardent abolitionists Sarah Grimke and Angelina Grimke Weld. (Beaufort District Collection, Beaufort County Library)
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. "Lottie Grimke" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed May 1, 2018.
Men and women students of Hampton Institute in a laboratory class on milk. Silver gelatin print Frances Benjamin Johnston 1900 Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division.