In the aftermath of protests for racial justice throughout the country in response to the police shootings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, a statue of Christopher Columbus was removed in Washington Park in Newark, New Jersey. In its place, a monument that honors Harriet Tubman will be constructed and completed in 2022, according to reports.
“Nearly one year after our nation’s racial reckoning and just in time for this year’s celebration of Juneteenth, we are proud to announce the design selected for our new Harriet Tubman monument,” Mayor Ras J. Baraka said in an official statement.
“I think it’s a little better than what we envisioned,” he told CBS News in an interview. “I think that it’s going to turn out to be something great.”
Just in time for #Juneteenth, Mayor @rasjbaraka has unveiled the final design for the new Harriet Tubman monument. Artist Nina Cooke John’s design “Shadow of a Face” will be installed in 2022 to honor the abolitionist’s legacy and connection to Newark. https://t.co/xnPakvbEZg pic.twitter.com/WzWMYnxDE1— City of Newark (@CityofNewarkNJ) June 18, 2021
“Harriet Tubman actually stepped foot here in this property, Christopher Columbus did not,” he continued. “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.”
Black New York-based architect Nina Cooke John was commissioned to design the monument of Tubman out of five finalists who were considered. Fayemi Shakur, director of Arts & Cultural Affairs of Newark, led a campaign last winter where artists were chosen to produce concepts for a monument inspired by the legacy of Tubman and the Underground Railroad. According to historians, Newark was a spot on the Underground Railroad that Tubman frequented during her many travels.John’s design “Shadow of a Face” casts a vision of the renamed park as a place of pilgrimage that will attract residents of Newark and from all over to learn about the remarkable life of Tubman.
The new monument will feature a large profile of Tubman and guide visitors through a “multisensory experience” that teaches them about the significant dates of Tubman’s life.“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,” John said at the announcement.
“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,” she added.
Along with John, Newark-based artist Adebunmi Gbadebo will serve as an apprentice assisting in researching and engaging the community during the duration of the project.