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Elementary: Harriet Tubman by Aaron Douglas (Art Card)

Aaron Douglas (American, 1899 to 1979), Harriet Tubman, 1931, oil on canvas, © Heirs of Aaron Douglas / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

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About the Artist

Aaron Douglas was an artist who created paintings, prints, and murals about the experience of Black Americans in American history and the culture of his time. He was part of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s.


About the Art

In this painting Douglas’s focus is Harriet Tubman, a woman who escaped slavery and went on to lead more than three hundred enslaved people to freedom using the Underground Railroad. Douglas wrote that he wanted to show Tubman “as a heroic leader” who could break the shackles of slavery.


Look Closely

  • What is going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What is the figure in the middle holding in her hands? Why do you think she is in the middle?
  • How would you describe the setting of this painting? What clues can you find about the place or places the artist is showing us?



  • The title of this painting is Harriet Tubman. What do you already know about Harriet Tubman? Which figure do you think is Harriet Tubman? How has the artist portrayed this figure to show her importance?
  • Who has power in this painting? Who does not? How do you know?
  • How can we support the idea of freedom in our art?  What images would you use and why? 



Harriet Tubman was known for her courage in taking risks to help enslaved people make their way to freedom during the 1850s and 1860s. 

  • What would you have included or left out if you were depicting Harriet Tubman?
  • How can we use art to share the ideas of social justice in ways that invite people to think deeper and act?


Learn More

Visit the “Learn More” sidebar to find more information about the work of art and artist and find other works of art that relate to the subject matter, media, and techniques used by the artist.