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The Harriet Tubman statue will stay at City Hall until March 31, 2022. Photo: Brittany Valentine/AL DÍA News
The Harriet Tubman statue will stay at City Hall until March 31, 2022. Photo: Brittany Valentine/AL DÍA News

Harriet Tubman monument unveiled at Philly City Hall

It will remain on the north side of City Hall until March 31, and will mark Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Tubman’s 200th birthday.

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On Tuesday, Jan. 11, a powerful nine-foot sculpture, entitled Harriet Tubman – The Journey to Freedom, was unveiled on the north apron of Philadelphia’s City Hall. 

Created by Wofford Sculpture Studio, the traveling monument will stay in its current location until March 31, as a celebration of Black History Month, Women's History Month, and Tubman’s 200th birthday. 

Wesley Wofford's sculpture has been traveling around the country since 2020. The monument was previously on display last Summer at the new Harriet Tubman Museum in Cape May. It has also been displayed in New York and North Carolina. 

The citywide recognition of the famous abolitionist’s birthday is being organized by Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE). More than 20 in-person and virtual events are being planned, including special exhibitions, screenings of the film Harriet and panel discussions. 

“We don’t know the exact date that she was born, only the month of March. So we’re going to have a birthday party. It’s going to be a way to celebrate this role model who means so much to so many people and represents so many things,” Kelly Lee, Philadelphia’s Chief Cultural Officer, told WHYY News

OACCE partnered with many local organizations to plan dozens of events throughout March, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, Harriet’s Bookshop, the Colored Girls Museum, and the African American Museum. 

Philadelphia is a fitting spot for the statue to take up residence, as it is where Tubman found her freedom. At just 27 years old, she escaped from Maryland to Philadelphia, returning at least 13 times to help about 70 people escape slavery via the Underground Railroad. 

She also famously spoke at the Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church during her time in the city. 

In the making of her book, Harriet the Moses of Her People, biographer Sarah Bradford spoke to Tubman about the freedom she felt when she first arrived in the City of Brotherly Love. 

“When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven,” Tubman said. 

Philadelphia is also a place where people of African descent, both free and enslaved, fought earnestly for freedom in the early days of the nation’s founding. 

Many Philadelphia men and women have worked diligently in the crusade for social justice and civil rights, including Cecil B. Moore, Dolores Tucker, and Octavius Catto, whose life and legacy is immortalized in a statue on the southwest side of City Hall. 

“Journey to Freedom” will not be the only sculpture in the region marking Tubman’s birth: there’s already a permanent statue of her in Bucks County at Bristol’s Waterfront Park.

“Proud to welcome Harriet Tubman’s statue to Philadelphia for #BlackHistoryMonth and #WomensHistoryMonth. When we #IlluminateTheArts, we see ourselves and our history depicted,” Councilmember Isaiah Thomas wrote on Twitter. 

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