Harriet Tubman’s traveling sculpture unveiled in Philadelphia

The sculpted figure of Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist and political activist who led hundreds of slaves to freedom, will stand at City Hall in Philadelphia until spring.

A 9-foot-tall bronze sculpture “Harriet Tubman – The Journey To Freedom” was unveiled Tuesday by the City of Philadelphia’s Bureau of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy.

“It is an honor to celebrate the life and legacy of Harriet Tubman here in Philadelphia,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement provided by the city. “Telling these stories through public art is vital for learning and reflection, connecting with our communities and understanding our stories.

“I am especially proud that the City of Philadelphia is hosting Harriet Tubman’s temporary installation on the North Apron of City Hall while a monument to another prominent black activist, Octavius ​​Catto, lives on the South Apron. . “

A Harriet Tubman sculpture,

The city hosts the traveling monument by award-winning sculptor Wesley Wofford from January 11 to March 31. This means Philadelphia will host the Black History Month sculpture in February, as well as Women’s History Month and Harriet Tubman’s 200th birthday in March.

The sculpture represents Tubman’s “courageous journey to free slaves and beautifully illustrates her determination despite the intense opposition she faced,” the statement said.

Tubman, a runaway slave, was a conductor of the Underground Railroad – a network of safe houses, safe spaces, and secret roads – and made dozens of journeys from south to north, helping slaves to freedom.

“I am honored that the city of Philadelphia is hosting my sculpture ‘The Journey to Freedom’,” said Wofford of North Carolina-based Wofford Sculpture Studio.

“Philadelphia has special relevance to Harriet’s story as the city in which she found refuge after her escape from Maryland, as well as the staging of several of her return raids to free others from the slavery of slavery. Being able to help amplify the heroism and determination of Harriet Tubman in a world in desperate need of his ideals is one of the greatest honors of my life.

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“Harriet Tubman – The Journey to Freedom” arrived in Philadelphia from Sylva, North Carolina, as part of a traveling sculpture exhibition. The sculpture has previously been housed in Cape May, New Jersey; Newburgh and Peekskill, New York .; Cambridge, Maryland; Montgomery, Alabama, and Halifax, North Carolina, among others.

The sculpture will travel to White Plains, New York when it leaves Philadelphia, and then have at least three other stops in New York State, including Auburn, Rochester and Kingston.

The sculpture was in Cape May from June 7 to September 17, 2021 for the Harriet Tubman Museum opening on June 17. Many believe that Tubman spent many summers in Cape May, working in hotels to earn money in order to come back down South and bring more slaves to freedom. The artwork was also on display at the museum prior to its official opening.

The Harriet Tubman Museum in Cape May opened in June 2021.

“Harriet Tubman’s legacy as an abolitionist, political activist, liberator, nurse, heroine and human rights defender has made her an icon of courage and determination,” said Tumar Alexander, Executive Director of the city ​​of philadelphia. “These values ​​are what we want to represent when people visit City Hall. I hope the presence of this monument reminds Philadelphians of the importance of taking action to improve our communities and fosters pride of place. “

The municipal arts, culture and creative economy office also announced a program of more than 30 programs that will celebrate Tubman’s legacy.

These virtual and in-person programs, in partnership with local cultural organizations, will take place throughout the city of Philadelphia and “will reflect themes of activism, role models, heroes, human rights, freedom, resilience, determination, contributions from strong women, equality ”.

A 9-foot-tall sculpture

Programming includes an exhibit on the historical chronology of Tubman’s life and a textile art exhibit at City Hall; screenings of the film “Harriet” with introductions by local activists and community leaders; music, dance and theater performances; a virtual conversation between notable local artists focused on the power of public art; historical tours; artistic activities ; author and artist talks, Tubman’s 200th anniversary celebrations, and more.

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“To capitalize on the excitement of hosting the Harriet Tubman sculpture in Philadelphia, OACCE has partnered with local cultural organizations to develop a schedule of thematic programs ranging from the installation to the end of March.” Kelly Lee, director of culture and executive director of municipal service, said in the statement.

“We wanted to amplify Harriet Tubman’s celebration of Philadelphia while also highlighting and promoting the programs of our local cultural organizations. I encourage Philadelphians and visitors to visit creativephl.org to participate in the full program of celebratory events.

“The programming programmed and curated by the OACCE is exemplary and further spreads Harriet’s positive message to a new audience,” Wofford added.

“To have my work, however briefly, among the great historical sculptures that make up the Philadelphia Public Art Collection is a highlight of my personal career.”

Celeste E. Whittaker is a trade reporter for the Courier Post, the Daily Journal and the Burlington County Times. The South Jersey native started CP in 1998 and has covered the Philadelphia 76ers, college and high school sports and won numerous awards for her work. Contact her at 856.486.2437 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @cp_CWhittaker.

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