Philly plans permanent statue honoring Harriet Tubman

A statue of Harriet Tubman is unveiled on the North Apron of City Hall

Philadelphia unveils a statue of Harriet Tubman on the North Apron of City Hall. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Philadelphia will permanently honor Harriet Tubman with a statue by the same artist who created a temporary piece to recognize her legacy.

The newly-commissioned permanent statue will be larger than the one currently at City Hall.

Mayor Kenney’s support for the arts made the commissioning of the new sculpture possible says Kelly Lee, the city’s chief cultural officer.

The announcement came at an official celebration of Harriet Tubman’s birthday, complete with cake at City Hall.

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Celebration of Harriet Tubman’s 200th birthday at City Hall on March 10, 2022. (Tom MacDonald / WHYY)

Lee said the 200th birthday marks the legacy of a woman who went from being enslaved to rescuing people who were themselves enslaved.

The celebration of that legacy began in January with the temporary installation of “The Journey to Freedom” statue outside City Hall.

Lee said there have been 40 virtual and in-person programs, from book readings to movie screenings since January, celebrating her impact citywide.

Members of the Green Family, who are members of Tubman’s maternal family joined in for the cake cutting, after Mayor Kenney spoke out about Tubman’s activism, heroism, and resilience that defined the inspiring woman.

Kenney said Tubman’s leadership of the Underground Railroad should remind everyone about the importance of taking action to improve our communities and our daily lives.

U.S. Congressman Brendan Boyle said he’s been working in Congress to bring more recognition of Tubman including Wednesday’s introduction of legislation creating a federal holiday in her name. Boyle said the idea came from a constituent.

Dr. Dale Green, who is a descendant of Tubman, spoke on behalf of her family. His ancestor, Reverend Samuel Green Sr. was captured, arrested, and sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1857 for being in possession of the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin, an anti-slavery publication. After his release in 1867, he founded Morgan State University. Rev. Green, Sr. and Tubman were both Underground Railroad conductors.

Green told those in attendance that the work that Tubman did shows the profound meaning of freedom in this country.

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