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Harriet Tubman Monument

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

A soaring 25-foot monument honoring abolitionist Harriet Tubman has been unveiled in Newark, New Jersey.

The unveiling, in a square that bears her name, marked the culmination of a two-year project. The monument, called Shadow of a Face, also includes an audio installation of Tubman's life, narrated by singer and actor Queen Latifah, who was born in Newark.

"I hope they take away renewed strength, inspiration, humanity, compassion," Latifah told CBS News. Tubman escaped slavery and risked her freedom on numerous occasions to lead about 70 enslaved people through the Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses which led north, and included a Newark church, with hidden tunnels.

At the site, visitors will also learn that Tubman was a spy in the Union Army, as well as an advocate for women's rights and the elderly.

Monument designer Nina Cooke John said she intentionally placed a mosaic of Tubman's face at eye level. "You can look into her eyes and touch her face and connect to her, to her humanity," Cooke John told CBS News. "It could be your mother, your aunt, your grandmother, and in so doing, be that much more inspired by her."

In 2016, Obama decided Tubman should replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, leading to celebrations that an escaped slave would be honoured instead of a slave owning president. Before this could be done, along came Donald Trump, who placed a portrait of Jackson (who also directed genocidal campaigns against Native Americans) prominently in the Oval Office, and scuppered the Obama plan.

Joe Biden has now revived it. The White House press secretary told reporters that the treasury was “exploring ways to speed up” the process, adding: “It’s important that our money reflect the history and diversity of our country.”

If you subscribe to Netflix, check out their excellent movie about Tubman, simply called Harriet.

Nannie Helen Burroughs


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