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Harriet Tubman Statue To Replace Christopher Columbus In New Jersey

by : Hannah Smith on : 22 Jun 2021 16:13
Harriet Tubman Statue To Replace Christopher Columbus In New JerseyNational Portrait Gallery/Public Domain/Jim.henderson/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The mayor of Newark in New Jersey has revealed designs for a statue of Harriet Tubman set to replace a monument to Christopher Columbus that was removed from the city last year.

Ras Baraka said the new statue honouring the abolitionist was ‘better than what we envisioned,’ confirming the monument would be officially unveiled next year.

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The statue of Christopher Columbus stood in the city’s Washington Park for almost a century before it was officially removed in June 2020, amid a nationwide reckoning over monuments to racist US historical figures in the wake of renewed Black Lives Matter protests.

Designs for new Harriet Tubman statue unveiled in Newark (Nina Cooke John/City of Newark)Nina Cooke John/City of Newark

Newark mayor Ras Baraka said choosing Tubman to occupy the space was ‘poetic’ given her ties with New Jersey. Tubman is known to have spent time in the state raising money for her work with the Underground Railroad, and is thought to have brought dozens of escaped slaves through Newark itself, which was the last stop on the railroad before New York, NPR reports.

In an interview with CBS, Baraka said:

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Harriet Tubman actually stepped foot here in this property, Christopher Columbus did not.

So, it seems more appropriate to have a statue of Harriet Tubman and talk about the abolitionists’ work that went on that most people in New Jersey don’t even know… fighting against a system that was trying to allow slavery in this state.

According to state historians, New Jersey was the last union state to abolish slavery, with some slaves in the state not freed until slavery was officially abolished nationwide through the 13th amendment in 1865.

Christopher Columbus statue removed from Newark in June 2020 (@salamishah/Twitter)@salamishah/Twitter

Following a call for submissions, the city officially commissioned artist Nina Cooke John to design the statue, which will feature a ceramic mosaic of Tubman’s face with accompanying text mapping the history of the Underground Railroad in New Jersey.

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In a statement, John said:

As a woman, a Black woman, and mother of three girls, I am delighted to bring my memorial for Harriet Tubman to life in Newark.

My design creates a welcoming space for people to connect with Tubman as well as interact and reflect on their own liberation from whatever weight they might be carrying. This is a monument for the community and by the community.

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Hannah Smith

Hannah Smith is a London-based journalist at UNILAD. After studying History at UCL she worked for print publications on both sides of the pond, including spells at Harper's Magazine and The Times, before graduating with an MA in Newspaper Journalism from City, University of London.

Topics: News, Christopher Columbus, New Jersey, Now, Statues

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CBS
  1. CBS

    Harriet Tubman monument replacing a Christopher Columbus statue in Newark is "poetic," mayor says