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Uwishunu Feature published on January 5, 2022

How Philadelphia Is Honoring Harriet Tubman’s Birthday in 2022

The celebration of the Underground Railroad conductor includes a statue at City Hall and more than 30 events...

Photo by Visit Philadelphia

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2022 marks the 200th anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s birth, and Philadelphia, the city where the famed abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor found her freedom, is ready to celebrate her exceptional life.

Celebrating an American Legend

From January 11 through March 31, 2022, an evocative, nine-foot sculpture, entitled Harriet Tubman – The Journey to Freedom, stands on the north apron of Philadelphia’s City Hall. Created by Wofford Sculpture Studio, the traveling monument represents Tubman’s work to free hundreds of enslaved people. It serves as a powerful reminder to onlookers that the struggle for social justice and equality did not end with the addition of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Coordinated by the City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, the months-long celebration of Tubman, which spans Black History Month and Women’s History Month, also includes more than 30 in-person and virtual events, including:

  • a historical timeline of Tubman’s life, on view inside City Hall (daily through March 31, 2022)
  • a discussion with best-selling local author and journalist Solomon Jones about his new actionable guide to social justice (January 19, 2022)
  • a performance by soprano singer Angel Blue transporting concertgoers to Knoxville: Summer of 1915 through Samuel Barber’s dream-like depiction of the world through the eyes of a child (February 3-5, 2022)
  • a Culture Crawl Trolley Tour hosted by Harriet’s Bookshop that visits five Black-owned businesses in Philly (March 5, 12, 19 & 26, 2022), and
  • a free virtual screening of the movie Harriet (March 18, 2022).
A statue of Harriet Tubman outside City Hall in Philadelphia A statue of Harriet Tubman outside City Hall in Philadelphia

  — Photo by Visit Philadelphia

Who Was Harriet Tubman?

Powerful, determined, fearless and strategic are just some of the adjectives that can be used to describe Harriet Tubman, the woman who never lost a single passenger. Tubman’s work to free enslaved people of African descent is not legend or fable. It is work she did to negate a horrible existence in a land that was created in the name of freedom. Tubman set out on these dangerous expeditions north because of the fierce love she had for her people, and her grit kept her moving forward during every perilous journey.

Why Celebrate In Philadelphia?

Philadelphia, the birthplace of our nation and site of so many revolutions, is a fitting place to host the memorial to Harriet Tubman. It’s a place where people of African descent, both free and enslaved, fought vigorously for freedom from the early days of the nation’s founding. Many Philadelphia men and women have worked diligently in the quest for social justice and civil rights. Among them: Cecil B. Moore, Reverend Leon Sullivan, C. Dolores Tucker and Octavius Catto, a 19th-century civil rights crusader whose life and legacy is immortalized in a statue on the southwest side of City Hall. The Harriet Tubman statue offers an opportunity to speak these names and others in remembrance of and gratitude for their work.

A Quest for Parity: The Octavius V. Catto Memorial A Quest for Parity: The Octavius V. Catto Memorial

The statue of Octavius V. Catto outside City Hall in Philadelphia   — Photo by Alec Rogers © 2018 for the Association for Public Art

Philadelphia’s African-American History & Culture

The Philadelphia region is filled with landmarks that tell of the successes, struggles and contributions of African Americans through the centuries. Among them:

  • Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, the “Mother” church of the nation’s first Black denomination where Tubman once delivered remarks
  • Johnson House Historic Site, a refuge for freedom seekers on the Underground Railroad; African American Museum in Philadelphia, preserving, interpreting and exhibiting the heritage and culture of African Americans
  • The Colored Girls Museum, housing original art by Black women and girls
  • Museum of the American Revolution, telling the story of the Revolutionary War, including the African American experience
  • The President’s House, an open-air site that includes structural fragments of the home where President Washington confined nine enslaved Africans.

Outside of Philadelphia, a waterfront memorial to her life and legacy stands in Bucks County at 150 Basin Park in Bristol. Click here for more information about Philadelphia’s Underground Railroad connections and here for more about Philadelphia’s African American cultural and historical sites.

Mother Bethel AME Church Mother Bethel AME Church

The exterior of Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, where Tubman once delivered remarks   — Photo by P. Meyer for Visit Philadelphia

Next Up

This summer, Philadelphia will continue its Freedom to Liberty Celebration, a multi-week event that runs from Juneteenth to the Fourth of July.

 

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