Tintype Portrait of an African-American Woman with Book

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.

From the auction catalog:

Tintype of an African-American Woman.
2.5″ x 3.75″
No place; no date

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.

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Unknown Harriet Tubman portrait owned by 19th century Quaker teacher of freed blacks

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.

H-Tubman
Benjamin F. Powelson, Carte-de-visite portrait of Harriet Tubman, 1868-1869

Black Schools

Black schooling, during the period of Reconstruction, occurred in various locations of the rural south: churches, homes, work-locations, etc. School buildings were constructed from limited resources through collaborations with parents, missionary associations, and civic and church leadership. This image is of a colored school in rural Louisiana (no date).  Although this image may appear to capture an integrated school (not uncommon but fewer in number than all-black schools) some of the students maybe mixed-race, or descendent of mixed race parents.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. “Colord School” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed May 8, 2018.

Black Education – Nineteenth Century

This photograph is a model of the more commonly held image of black education in the era of Emancipation and Reconstruction. Taken shortly after the end of the Civil War, the image suggests the leadership of white women and the participation of black children in educational pursuits. Recent scholarship has emphasized the contributions of black teachers (women and men), black soldiers, and black parents in supporting and leading the cause of black education.
Portrait of teacher Laura M. Towne, a founder of the Penn School, with students Dick, Maria and Amoretta. 1866

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division

Seated in Higher Learning

[Four African American women seated on steps of building at Atlanta University, Georgia]
Askew, Thomas E., 1850?-1914, photographer
Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963, collector
Created [1899 or 1900]
Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963. Du Bois albums of photographs of African Americans in Georgia exhibited at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print