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Harriet Tubman’s “Journey to Freedom” Sculpture

By Tyronda James
tyrondajames@minorityreporter.net

Harriet Tubman’s “Journey to Freedom” Sculpture. photo provided.

The Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Celebration (HTBC) will take place at different venues in Rochester, New York, between September 2 through October 31, 2022.  

The unveiling for the Harriet Tubman “Journey to Freedom” traveling sculpture took place on September 2nd at 11:00 a.m., during a kickoff program downtown at Washington Square Park, 10 St. Mary’s Place, Rochester, NY 14607 (located near GEVA Theater at South Clinton Avenue and Court Street).

The Tubman sculpture will remain on open display at this location throughout its two-month stay in Rochester. All events and activities presented by HTBC in several other locations to honor Harriet Tubman during her visit are FREE  and open to the public.

This Harriet Tubman “Journey to Freedom” sculpture by the Wesley Wofford Sculpture Studio is a remarkable work of art that features Harriet Tubman in mid stride, hustling towards freedom with a youngster in tow. It portrays the courage, physical determination, and contributions of Black women throughout history.

The temporary installation of this inspiring statue of Tubman leading a child to freedom, pictured above, will provide an opportunity for Rochester and the surrounding communities to learn about the proud heritage of abolitionists and suffragists in Upstate New York, and celebrate Harriet Tubman’s life as a political activist, leader in the Underground Railroad, and as a nurse, scout and spy for the Union Army during the Civil War. She also created a nursing home for freed slaves in Auburn, New York.

The project goal is to inspire diverse youth to restore, renew and reinvest in our history and to be advocates for racial equity. Youth who engage in the arts and history projects learn about the contributions of abolitionists and suffragists, as they explore Harriet Tubman’s collaborations with Rochester’s own community leaders such as Hester Jeffrey, Lucy Sprague, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.

Harriet Tubman’s “Journey to Freedom” sculpture is the first internationally recognized African American woman’s statue to be unveiled in Monroe County. It marks a turning point in the appreciation of art, culture, and African American contributions to the Rochester community, and also provides an emotional expression of the strength and resilience of African American women and their impact today.

FILE- In this undated file photo provided by Swan Auction Galleries, a photograph of 19th century abolitionist Harriet Tubman is shown. (Courtesy Swann Auction Galleries via AP). Photo from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_Tubman%27s_birthplace

Washington Square Park, operated by the City of Rochester, is a favorite green space for lunchtime picnics, concerts and special events. This historic downtown hub dates back to 1817 and was the sacred ancestral land and unceded traditional territory of the Onöndowa’ga (people of the Great Hill). Frederick Douglass made notable public addresses in this park, both in 1848 and 1852. This historic landmark is also home to a Civil War Memorial erected in 1892 to honor veteran soldiers and sailors. At the top of the monument stands a statue of President Abraham Lincoln.

September 4th is a youth-led Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Celebration Opening Ceremony, located at the Rochester Museum & Science Center’s Eisenhart Auditorium, located at 657 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607.

The celebration demonstrates the importance of continuing youth-directed, culturally specific and culturally responsive programming to address the effects of racism within the community and to promote solutions to the ongoing struggle for racial equity.

“We encourage families, businesses, community organizations, schools and government offices to elevate the importance of this information to help bridge the gap in understanding the level and value of contributions by African American citizens to the growth and development of communities in our cities, towns, counties, states and nation,” said Jacqueline A. Sprague, the HTBC project director and strategic consultant.  

There are a total of 11 planned events listed on the website. 

All are invited to participate in the activities and be inspired by Tubman’s famous quote on slavery, freedom and God: 

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars, to change the world.”

The HTBC committee consists of Sprague, Dr. Susan Taylor Brown, HTBC Project Sponsor, and the advisory committee members Hanif Abdul-Wahid, Sharon Hancock, and Carla Stough-Huffman.                      

The Descendants of Harriet Tubman act as community programmer consultants along with David & Ruth Anderson, Dr. Walter Cooper, Victoria Schmitt, The J.W. Thompson, Sprague and Howard Coles Families.

Organizational partners of HTBC are the Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC), National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House, Greater Rochester Black Agenda, Rochester Area Community Foundation, County of Monroe, City of Rochester, Landmark Society of Western New York, Action for a Better Community, Baden Street Settlement, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Asha Willis, M.D., 50 West Main, Inc., and others. 

Visit the HBTC website: www.TubmanROC.com for more detailed information about Rochester and surrounding community events throughout Tubman’s stay.