Announcing Permanent Harriet Tubman Sculpture and Legislation for a Harriet Tubman Federal Holiday
PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy (OACCE) hosted Harriet Tubman’s 200th Birthday Celebration on Thursday, March 10.
March will mark 200 years since the legacy of Harriet Tubman began in 1822, when she was born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland. The exact date of Harriet Tubman’s birth is unknown, but the City will celebrate her life and legacy on March 10, the date of her passing. This is the pinnacle event in OACCE’s Celebration of Harriet Tubman programs which started on January 11 with the unveiling of the temporary 9-foot Harriet Tubman – The Journey to Freedom sculpture by Wesley Wofford at City Hall and will continue through March 31, 2022. The program at City Hall will include Mayor Jim Kenney; Congressman Brendan Boyle, Representing Pennsylvania’s 2nd District joined by Jeannine Cook, owner of Harriett’s Bookshop; and Kelly Lee, Chief Cultural Officer and Executive Director of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy. Live performances include Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing by the Villanova University Gospel Choir led by Reverend Naomi Washington-Leapheart, Director for Faith Based and Interfaith Affairs for the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement, and Oh Freedom! by Yumi Kendall, The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Assistant Principal Cellist. In attendance will be relatives of Harriet Tubman’s maternal family, the Green Family. The Green Family are descendants of Harriet’s mother Harriet Rit Green and her grandmother Modesty Green. Dr. Dale Green, Professor of Architecture and Historic Preservation at Morgan State University, will speak on behalf of the family. Dr. Green is eight generations removed from Modesty Green, Harriet’s grandmother. Ceremonial documents recognizing Harriet Tubman from Mayor Kenney and Philadelphia City Councilmembers will be presented to the family. The guest of honor, Harriet Tubman, will make an appearance through Millicent Sparks, Harriet Tubman living history interpreter. The event will conclude with a birthday cake cutting and reception with light refreshments in Conversation Hall, Room 201. OACCE will announce that the City of Philadelphia is commissioning a permanent Harriet Tubman sculpture that will be larger than the temporary 9-foot Harriet Tubman – The Journey to Freedom sculpture by Wesley Wofford currently at City Hall. The new monument, also by Wesley Wofford, will become part of the City’s permanent public art collection. The City is commissioning this public artwork in response to the outpouring of love and pride from so many members of the public to the temporary Harriet Tubman – The Journey to Freedom sculpture. Philadelphians who are invited to provide input on the concept of the permanent sculpture are invited to share the values of Harriet Tubman that resonate with them on social media through OACCE’s #PhillyLovesHarriet campaign. “It’s been a joy for the City of Philadelphia to honor Harriet Tubman through the ongoing Celebration of Harriet Tubman programs presented by OACCE and now with the announcement of plans to commission a permanent sculpture of Harriet Tubman at City Hall,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “This sculpture will represent the values of activism, heroism, equality, resilience, and more that we want inspiring all who visit City Hall.” Congressman Brendan Boyle, Representing Pennsylvania’s 2nd District, will announce his introduction of legislation to the House of Representatives that would enact a federal holiday in Harriet Tubman’s name. This effort to designate a federal holiday in Harriet Tubman’s name began in Philadelphia through the efforts of Jeannine Cook, the owner of Harriet’s Bookshop in Fishtown. Jeannine spearheaded door-to-door grass roots organizing and contacted Congressman Boyle to make this effort to designate a federal holiday in Harriet Tubman’s name a reality. “Harriet Tubman’s humanitarian efforts more than a century ago still resonate with us today”, said Congressman Brendan Boyle. “She was a good, decent and incredibly brave human being who worked day and night to save lives and eradicate the scourge of slavery that had infected the United States during that period. It is only fitting that her efforts are honored with a federal holiday in her name. I am proud to lead this legislation honoring Harriet Tubman.” Celebration of Harriet Tubman Programs: The City of Philadelphia has celebrated Harriet Tubman’s legacy with more than 40 virtual and in-person programs organized by OACCE including public art panels, performances, discussions, the Dreams of Freedom: The Threads That Hold Us Together exhibition on view at City Hall, social media campaigns, and more during Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Harriet’s 200th birthday. These programs continue through the end of March and reflect the themes of activism, role models, heroes, human rights, freedom, resilience, determination, contributions of strong women, equality, and more. The city-wide Celebration of Harriet Tubman has been successful due to the partnerships and participation of Philadelphia’s cultural organizations and artists. Beyond these partnerships, many more submitted their video acknowledgments of the impact of Harriet Tubman. Visit creativephl.org to view a video wall of tributes to Harriet Tubman with thoughts on what her message would be to sustain her legacy for the next 200 years. “As the City of Philadelphia’s Chief Cultural Officer, it’s been an absolute honor to celebrate 200 years of Harriet Tubman’s life and legacy through the arts,” said Kelly Lee, Chief Cultural Officer and Executive Director of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy. “The arts have the exceptional ability to connect our present day lives to the incredible and intricate story of this legendary hero, abolitionist, civic activist, and human rights advocate. I am moved by the outpouring of love, support, and pride from the millions of people who have visited the Harriet Tubman sculpture at City Hall or shared their experiences on social media. I am also excited about the thousands of people who have participated in more than 40 scheduled cultural programs that have celebrated Harriet Tubman. This response gives me confidence that Harriet’s legacy of courage, faith, and community will be commemorated, celebrated, and sustained for the next 200 years.” For more information about the Celebration of Harriet Tubman including the schedule of remaining programs visit creativephl.org/harriet-tubman. Photos from today’s event will be available upon request. About the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy closes the gap in access to quality cultural experiences and creative expression through the support and promotion of arts, culture and the creative industries; connecting Philadelphians to enriching, arts-infused experiences; linking local artists and cultural organizations to resources and opportunities; and preserving the City’s public art assets. For more information about the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, visit CreativePHL.org and follow @CreativePHL on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.