FACT CHECK: Viral Image Claims To Show Harriet Tubman In Her Youth

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook more than 19,000 times purportedly shows abolitionist Harriet Tubman in her youth.

Verdict: False

The woman in the photograph is West African princess Sarah Forbes Bonetta.

Fact Check:

Tubman, who escaped from slavery to later become a prominent abolitionist, is widely recognized for leading enslaved people to freedom along the route of the Underground Railroad(RELATED: Did Harriet Tubman Say She Could Have Freed More Slaves ‘If Only They Knew They Were Slaves’?)

The viral Facebook post alleges in an image that the young woman pictured is Tubman. “Bet they never show you this picture of Harriet Tubman Young and Beautiful,” reads the caption. “They always show you the picture of her after she has been beaten and tortured yet still survived because she’s black!”

However, a quick reverse image search revealed the photograph actually depicts Bonetta. The picture, housed at the National Portrait Gallery in London, was taken by French photographer Camille Silvy in 1862, according to the website.

Bonetta, the daughter of an Egbado chieftain of the Yoruba people, was enslaved during intertribal warfare and later brought to England by a British sea captain, according to the National Portrait Gallery. In 1850, Queen Victoria took up sponsorship of Bonetta’s education and welfare.

This isn’t the first time social media users have erroneously claimed viral images show Tubman. In 2016, Snopes debunked a miscaptioned picture that supposedly depicted Tubman but actually showed Mary Fields, the first black woman employed as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service.

Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
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