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Harriet Tubman is one of the most famous abolitionists in U.S. history. Born into slavery, she eventually escaped, guided scores of slaves to freedom with the Underground Railroad, and acted as a union spy during the Civil War.
But shortly after Tubman was named as the new face of the $20 bill in April 2016, internet posts began to circulate that claimed Tubman was a "gun-toting" Republican who shot Democrats. The claim re-appeared on Facebook in a March 17, 2019, photo post.
The post depicts a woman posing with a rifle. Text beneath it says: "The Awkward Moment when leftist feminists find out Harriet Tubman — who they voted to kick Andrew Jackson— the founder of the Democratic Party — off the $20 bill — was a gun-toting, democrat-shooting 2nd Amendment-supporting Republican!"
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The first thing to know: This is not a photograph of Tubman.
There are more problems in the detailed claims, experts said.
"Tubman was not a ‘gun-toting, 2nd Amendment-supporting Republican who shot Democrats,’" said Kate Clifford Larson, historian and Tubman scholar who authored the biography "Bound For the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero."
While her anti-slavery efforts and support of the union were certainly in line with the Republican party’s ideals, Tubman wasn’t permitted the right to vote, and thus couldn’t have officially joined any political party.
Larson told PolitiFact that Tubman said she followed Susan B. Anthony's politics, who was a Democrat.
"Anthony was a Democrat because she felt betrayed by the Republican Party," Larson wrote, "which refused to give women the right to vote when they passed the 15th Amendment giving black men the suffrage."
The only time Tubman is said to have been in possession of a long gun, like the one pictured in the post, was during her time as a spy in the Civil War.
"She carried a sharp-shooter's rifle during the Civil War to fight Confederates — not Democrats — who were fighting to keep her enslaved," Larson said.
Tubman more often carried a pistol to protect herselves from slave-catchers, Larson said. Other historians and biographers said her pistol was mainly used to urge on people who grew tired or afraid on their journey and might be having second thoughts.
A recycled social media post offers a supposed photograph of Harriet Tubman and says she was a "gun-toting, 2nd Amendment-supporting Republican" who "shot Democrats."
The woman in the photograph posing with a rifle is not Tubman, but Mary Fields.
While Tubman did carry a pistol for protection, there is no evidence she sought to harm members of the political party. Her beliefs may have been aligned with the Republican Party at the time, but she could not have been a member as she died before women were granted the right to vote.
The claims are flawed and the photo is not Tubman. We rate this post False.
Facebook post, March 17, 2019
HarrietTubmanBiography.com, Harriet Tubman Myths and Facts, Accessed March 22, 2019
History.com, Harriet Tubman, Accessed March 22, 2019
WomensHistory.org, Harriet Tubman, Accessed March 23, 2019
History.com, Meet Stagecoach Mary, the Daring Black Pioneer Who Protected Wild West Stagecoaches, Sept. 14, 2017
Email interview, Kate Clifford Larson historian and Tubman biographer, March 25, 2019
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