Philadelphia’s Permanent Harriet Tubman Statue - The Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (2023)

Philadelphia’s Permanent Harriet Tubman Statue - The Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (1)

The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE) invites Philadelphians to participate in the development of Philadelphia’s permanent Harriet Tubman statue that will be located on the North apron of City Hall.

Philadelphia’s permanent Harriet Tubman statue will be a continuation of the story told by the temporary Harriet Tubman: The Journey to Freedom by artist Wesley Wofford. The temporary statue was installed at Philadelphia City Hall from January 11 to March 31, 2022, in celebration of Harriet Tubman’s 200th birthday.  Harriet Tubman:The Journey to Freedom is a traveling statue that has visited cities in North Carolina, New Jersey, and New York. The Journey to Freedom shared the story of Harriet Tubman with close to four million people who either visited the statue in Philadelphia or were reached by positive responses to the statue shared on social media. In response to the outpouring of love and pride forThe Journey to Freedomstatue, Mayor Jim Kenney requested if the City of Philadelphia could purchase the statue but learned thatThe Journey to Freedomwas not for sale. The City decided to commission the same artist, Wesley Wofford, to create a permanent version of this statue specifically for Philadelphia.

The new permanent Harriet Tubman statue will become part of the City’s permanent public art collection and will represent one of the City’s first public artworks honoring a historic African American female figure. The permanent statue will celebrate Harriet Tubman while honoring her ties to Philadelphia and providing the opportunity to connect with one another, understand our histories, and celebrate underrepresented stories in our public spaces.

Public engagement will be vital to this historic public art project. The information gathered through ongoing public engagement will help determine the theme and messaging of the permanent Harriet Tubman statue to make it unique to Philadelphia and inform the physical design and statue’s text. Below, please find information on Philadelphia’s permanent Harriet Tubman statue project. Join our mailing list to stay involved and receive updates.

Public Input Survey Results

Philadelphians were invited to complete a public input survey of seven (7) questions from June 22 to July 13 before 5:00 p.m. The information gathered through the online public survey will help determine the theme and messaging of the permanent Harriet Tubman statue to make it unique to Philadelphia and inform the physical design and statue’s text. Project background, key highlights of the history of Harriet Tubman, and possible statue themes were provided to survey participants.View the public input survey results and possible statue themes below.

(Video) Philadelphia unveils statue of Harriet Tubman outside City Hall

Philadelphia’s Permanent Harriet Tubman Statue - The Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (2)

Responses to Concerns about Philadelphia’s Permanent Harriet Tubman Commission

There has been public concern about this commission not being an open call to artists as well as Wesley Wofford, a white artist, being commissioned to create Philadelphia’s permanent Harriet Tubman statue. Below are key points addressing these concerns.

Why didn’t the City of Philadelphia hold an open call for Philadelphia’s permanent Harriet Tubman statue?

At the start of a permanent public art project, such as the creation of a new statue or monument, the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy typically issues an open call for artists to compete for the project. These open calls solicit a wide variety of original ideas, visions, and expressions, and prioritize minority and female artists. There was not an open call for artists to create the permanent Harriet Tubman statue because in this case, the City was not starting from the beginning.The commissioning of Philadelphia’s permanent Harriet Tubman statue was inspired by public reaction to Wesley Wofford’s Harriet Tubman: The Journey to Freedom statue that was exhibited at City Hall from January 11- March 31, 2022.Close to 4 million people were reached and impacted by Wesley’s work and shared images, commented on the beauty and likeness of the statue, how much it captured Harriet Tubman’s courage and spirit, and expressed how deeply the statue made them feel. Many people asked if theJourney to Freedomstatue could remain in Philadelphia. The City inquired about purchasingThe Journey to Freedombut it was not available for purchase. In February 2022, the City decided to commission the same artist, Wesley Wofford, to create a permanent Harriet Tubman statue specifically in response to Philadelphian’s wanting to keep hisJourney to Freedomstatue.Philadelphia would not be commissioning this permanent Harriet Tubman statue if not for the public’s positive response to Wofford’s temporary statue. It would be inappropriate for the City to bring in a different artist to recreate the artistic expression of Wesley Wofford.

How can the City commission a white artist to create Philadelphia’s permanent Harriet Tubman statue?

Some members of the public have expressed the concern of a white artist, Wesley Wofford, being commissioned to tell the important and heroic story of Harriet Tubman. This concern is important and points to the need for more minority artists creating statues and monuments, and more statues and monuments that celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of minorities. To increase the stories that celebrate and showcase the accomplishments of minorities in public art, we need to use both direct commissions and open calls and have artists of all races and ethnicities to participate in telling these stories. Harriet Tubman’s story is so important and inspiring that there should be many monuments of her in our cities, and the creators of these monuments should not be limited to any one race or ethnicity. In addition, all artists should be able to create their artistic expressions about any subject regardless of their race or identity.

(Video) Tawanna Green Frazier and Family, Relatives of Harriet Tubman's Maternal Family

Additional Statements:

Statement from Members of the Green Family, Harriet Tubman’s Maternal Family

Statement from Wesley Wofford, Wofford Sculpture Studio

Harriet Tubman Statue Advisory Committee

Rasheed Zaire Ajamu
Blogger, Phreedom Jawn

Joyce Ajlouny
General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee

Molefi Asante
Professor, Department of Africology and African American Studies, Temple University College of Liberal Arts

(Video) God Complex: Different Philadelphia discussion w/ artist Robert Lugo

Mia Bay
Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Chair in American History, University of Pennsylvania

Latifah Fields
President, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc.

Evelyn Green
Family Member of Harriet Tubman

Danetta Green Johnson
Family Member of Harriet Tubman

Kate Gunther
Student, Friends Select School

Vivien Johnson
Student, Friends Select School

(Video) American Art and the Political Imagination: Day 1

Ashley Jordan
President & CEO, African American Museum in Philadelphia

Gwen Ragsdale
President & Film Producer, Lest We Forget Museum of Slavery

Cornelia Swinson
Executive Director, Johnson House Historic Site

Leslie Tyler
Vice President of Program Communications and Partnerships, Kimmel Cultural Campus & Communications Director, Mother Bethel AME

Brittany Webb
Evelyn and Will Kaplan Curator of Twentieth-Century Art and the John Rhoden Collection, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Damar Wilson
Student, Hill-Freedman World Academy

(Video) Panel Discussion - A Closer Look at African American Artists in SAAM’s Collection

Harriet Tubman Historical Timeline

Below are dates and a brief timeline of some of the key milestones and accomplishments of Harriet Tubman.

  • 1822 – Araminta “Minty” Ross was born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland. She was enslaved by Edward Brodess; her mother was Harriet “Rit” Green, and her father was Ben Ross. She was the fifth of nine children.
  • 1844 – Minty married John Tubman and took his name. She kept her mother’s name “Harriet” and became Harriet Tubman, but will later be known by many names, including the Moses of her people.
  • 1849 – After Edward Brodess’ death, Tubman fled to freedom in Philadelphia where she found a thriving free Black community, a city of reformers, abolitionists, and suffragists ready to embrace her.
  • 1850 – She took her first trip back to Maryland to rescue her niece Kessiah Jolly Bowley and her family and led them to freedom in Philadelphia. Prior to Tubman’s arrival, Pennsylvania had already abolished slavery, but the new Fugitive Slave Act would supersede state law. As a result, her Underground Railroad network stretched further north into Canada.
  • 1855 – For 6 years she lived and travelled through Philadelphia and Cape May, NJ working in hotels and club houses as a domestic to save money for her journeys. She frequented Underground Railroad stops including being a regular visitor at the home of Philadelphian William Still, visiting the Johnson House in Germantown, and speaking at Mother Bethel AME Church. She developed a reputation as a liberator and made friends with powerful reformers, including Lucretia Mott, an abolitionist and women’s rights advocate. Through her, she met many other activists including Frederick Douglass.
  • 1858 – Tubman met abolitionist John Brown while in Canada. She helped recruit supporters and raised funds for his plans for a slave uprising in Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Brown called her “General Tubman.” The failed Harpers Ferry raid the following year was one of the events that led to the American Civil War.
  • 1859 – Tubman purchased property in Auburn, NY for her family and friends. She became a fixture at abolition and suffrage meetings throughout Central New York and the Boston area, sometimes under the pseudonym “Harriet Garrison” to protect her from slave catchers.
  • 1860 – She underwent her final mission on the Underground Railroad. Over a period of ten years, through approximately 13 trips, she assisted 60 to 70 people and provided detailed instructions to another 60 to 70 freedom seekers. “I can say what most conductors can’t say – I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”
  • 1862 – During the Civil War, Tubman was recruited by Massachusetts Governor John Andrew to perform humanitarian work in South Carolina. When she wasn’t serving as a cook, nurse, and recruiter, she bravely served as a spy and scout under the command of Col. James Montgomery.
  • 1863 – Tubman became the first woman to lead an assault during the Civil War, guiding three steamboats of 150 Black union solders around Confederate mines in the Combahee River Raid in South Carolina. She helped liberate more than 700 enslaved people. She was also the chief nurse for Black soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment under Col. Robert Gould Shaw.
  • 1865 – When the war ended, Tubman returned to Auburn where she began another career as a community activist, humanitarian, and suffragist. In addition to providing a home for numerous friends and relatives, she also raised money for the Freedmen’s Bureau, which had been established to provide education and relief to millions of the formerly enslaved.
  • 1896 – She spoke at the first meeting of the National Association of Colored Women and became a member along with Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells, and Philadelphia’s own Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. The motto for the NACW was “Lift As We Climb”, which aimed to uplift all African Americans during the Jim Crow era. Even though she was illiterate, Tubman was highly intelligent, and her speeches were in great demand. Working with other suffragists fighting for the women’s right to vote like Susan B. Anthony, Tubman would give speeches in Boston, New York and Washington D.C.
  • 1903 – Tubman donated her property to the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Auburn to be converted into a home for the “aged and indigent colored people”.
  • 1913 – Harriet Tubman died of pneumonia; she was 91. Her funeral services were held in the Thompson Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church. She was buried with military honors at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, New York.


What does the Harriet Tubman statue represent? ›

Tubman helped more than 70 people escape from slavery. The sculpture depicts the last person she brought to freedom, a child she ultimately adopted. “But it's also a universal story of what she represented and the determination that she had,” Lee noted.

Where is the Harriet Tubman statue located in Philadelphia? ›

For three months in 2022, an evocative, nine-foot sculpture, entitled Harriet Tubman – The Journey to Freedom, stood on the north apron of Philadelphia's City Hall. Created by Wofford Sculpture Studio, the traveling monument represented Tubman's work to free hundreds of enslaved people.

What did Harriet Tubman do in Philadelphia? ›

She saved what she could from working as a domestic worker in Philadelphia, and crossed back over the Mason-Dixon Line on her first of at least thirteen missions to rescue family and friends and become the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. But Tubman was not able to permanently settle in Philadelphia.

What are some symbols that represent Harriet Tubman? ›

  • The Patchwork Quilt - The quilt symbolized her life with her husband. It was also a hope chest to her. “ ...
  • The Underground Railroad - This symbolizes how she got her freedom. This also symbolizes how she helped other slaves become free. “ ...
  • The Bandana - The bandana symbolized her becoming a woman.

How many Harriet Tubman statues are there? ›

Considering the extremely limited number of memorials to African American women in the United States, it is extraordinary that, beginning in 1994, nine full-figure statues of Tubman have been installed in public sites in this country.

Why was the Harriet Tubman statue made? ›

The statue depicts Tubman striding forward despite roots pulling on the back of her skirt; these represent the roots of slavery.
Harriet Tubman Memorial (New York City)
Harriet Tubman Memorial
Wikimedia | © OpenStreetMap
ArtistAlison Saar
Typebronze and Chinese granite
3 more rows

What statue is on top of building in Philadelphia? ›

William Penn is a bronze statue by Alexander Milne Calder of William Penn, the founder and namesake for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is located atop the Philadelphia City Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was installed in 1894.

Why do we celebrate Harriet Tubman? ›

Harriet Tubman was an escaped enslaved woman who became a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, leading enslaved people to freedom before the Civil War, all while carrying a bounty on her head. But she was also a nurse, a Union spy and a women's suffrage supporter.

Why did Harriet Tubman leave Philadelphia? ›

In 1849, fearing she and other family members would be sold (the fate of several sisters), Harriet Tubman and two of her brothers escaped slavery in Maryland's Eastern Shore. The men turned back but she walked the 90 or so miles to Philadelphia to freedom.

Who helped Harriet Tubman in Philadelphia? ›

William Still

How many slaves did Harriet Tubman free? ›

Myth: Harriet Tubman rescued 300 people in 19 trips. Fact: According to Tubman's own words, and extensive documentation on her rescue missions, we know that she rescued about 70 people—family and friends—during approximately 13 trips to Maryland.

What lessons can we learn from Harriet Tubman? ›

She did not wait on a leader to rise up. She became the leader. She proclaimed herself free. Equipped with a steadfast determination that freedom was her natural lot and no human had a right to take that away from her, Tubman teaches us that we must first save ourselves, by any means necessary.

What are some quotes about slavery? ›

Slavery Quotes
  • “Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves” ...
  • “I must get my soul back from you; I am killing my flesh without it.” ...
  • “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”

How did Harriet Tubman have an impact on society? ›

In addition to leading more than 300 enslaved people to freedom, Harriet Tubman helped ensure the final defeat of slavery in the United States by aiding the Union during the American Civil War. She served as a scout and a nurse, though she received little pay or recognition.

Is there a statue of Harriet Tubman? ›

A statue of Harriet Tubman created by artist Jane DeDecker honors the life of abolitionist Harriet Tubman. The bronze statue depicts Tubman walking and holding the hand of a young boy.
Statue of Harriet Tubman (DeDecker)
Statue of Harriet Tubman
LocationYpsilanti, Michigan, USA
42°14′26″N 83°36′56″W
2 more rows

How many slaves did Harriet Tubman free? ›

Myth: Harriet Tubman rescued 300 people in 19 trips. Fact: According to Tubman's own words, and extensive documentation on her rescue missions, we know that she rescued about 70 people—family and friends—during approximately 13 trips to Maryland.

Who gave Harriet Tubman her shawl? ›

In 1863, she helped free more than 700 African Americans during a raid in South Carolina - a feat that earned her the nickname "General Tubman." England's Queen Victoria gave Tubman this shawl around 1897.

How do you draw Harriet Tubman's face? ›

How To Draw Harriet Tubman - YouTube


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