FACT CHECK: Does This Image Show Harriet Tubman Holding A Rifle?

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

An image shared on Facebook purportedly shows social activist and abolitionist Harriet Tubman posing with a rifle.

Verdict: False

The image shows the former slave and mail carrier Mary Fields, not Tubman.

Fact Check:

Tubman, who was born into slavery, is well known for helping other enslaved people escape to freedom along the Underground Railroad route, according to Britannica. She conducted approximately 13 trips along the route over the span of a decade beginning in 1850, the encyclopedia states.

An image shared on Facebook claims to show a black and white photo of her holding a rifle. “Do you think Harriet Tubman could’ve passed a govt background check in 1850s Maryland?” reads text included in the image.

The photo does not show Tubman. A reverse image search reveals it actually shows Fields, known commonly as “Stagecoach Mary.” The photo appears on the National Park Service website and the Smithsonian National Park Museum website, both of which identify the woman as Fields.

Britannica also includes the photo in its entry about Fields and attributes it to the Ursuline Sisters of Toledo, Ohio. Sister Joy Gray, who is part of the leadership team of the organization, confirmed in an email to Check Your Fact that the woman in the picture is Fields, not Tubman. (RELATED: Did Harriet Tubman Say She Could Have Freed More Slaves ‘If Only They Knew They Were Slaves’?)

Fields, who was born into slavery and later became a housekeeper of the Toledo Ursuline Convent, is remembered best for becoming the first black woman to be a star route mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, according to Britannica. She carried a rifle and a revolver on her route to fend off potential thieves, History.com reported.

While the woman in the photo is not of Tubman, she also carried a pistol during her emancipation trips and a rifle during the Civil War, according to harriettubmanbiography.com, a website run by Tubman biographer Kate Clifford Larson.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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