Sculpture of abolitionist Harriet Tubman unveiled at King Elementary School | News
A traveling sculpture of abolitionist and civil rights activist Harriet Tubman was unveiled Saturday at King Elementary School in Lancaster city.
The Harriet Tubman’s “Journey to Freedom” traveling exhibit, which began its journey in Montgomery, Alabama, and has been touring since January 2020, will be on display at the corner of South Duke Street and North Street through March 30.
The total cost of the exhibit, which includes transportation of the sculpture, is approximately $7,000. It’s made possible by the Lancaster African American Cultural Alliance of Lancaster, Millersville University and an anonymous donor.
The 9-foot, 2,400-pound sculpture by North Carolina-based, award-winning artist Wesley Wofford pays tribute to Tubman’s commitment to and resilience in the fight for freedom and depicts her travels to free hundreds of enslaved people.
The sculpture shows Tubman as a young woman holding the hand of an enslaved girl, leading her to her freedom on the Underground Railroad, leaving the bonds of slavery behind. Their feet stand on one rock, which symbolizes the slave states of Maryland and Delaware, while Tubman’s left foot rises up over a cliff, symbolizing the danger of the journey on their way to Pennsylvania.
“At one point, the African American community was concentrated in the southeast of the city. As far as King Elementary, this is the first school to be named after a Black person here, so this is the perfect location for the exhibit because it’s here to signify we are still on this journey, we are still fighting the battle to freedom and we are here to stay,” said Vincent Derek Smith, president of the cultural alliance.
The sculpture was officially unveiled during a special event at the school, 466 Rockland St., with dozens of people in attendance.
“It’s exciting to see what this exhibit does for each community. It’s building bridges, it’s inspiring communities to come together and it’s exciting to see what it does in each place and how it impacts the people. Harriet is an American hero and most importantly a role model, so we hold hands with our Black brothers and sisters to tell that story. That’s the reason we do this,” said sculptor Wofford.
The unveiling event included remarks from clergy, local and state officials; a live art installation by artist Bryan Hickman; prayer; songs; and a presentation of “Living the Experience: Underground Railroad Re-enactment,” usually at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Strawberry Street.
“The story of Harriet is not the story of one individual but the story of Black and brown people right here in the southeast, in our community,” said state Rep. Izzy Smith-Wade-El.
“It’s a distinct honor and it’s humbling to be celebrating Harriet Tubman with all of you today,” said Lancaster city Mayor Danene Sorace. “She survived so many obstacles in her life de ella and went on to be part of the suffrage movement for women. We are celebrating history through the lens of a heroine, and to celebrate and recognize a Black woman who accomplished so much is truly an honor.”
Meanwhile, Rev. Edward M. Bailey of Bethel AME, where he has been the pastor for the last 28 years, reminded the audience of mostly African Americans that the battle for freedom is not over.
“Anybody who thinks it is, is crazy,” Bailey said. “If you want to seek freedom, nobody is going to set you free. You have to fight for it.”
Tubman was born Araminta Ross in 1822 on Maryland’s eastern shore to enslaved parents. She escaped to become a leading abolitionist who aided the Underground Railroad, a secret network of people, routes and safe houses to transport enslaved people out of the South.
“We are still fighting that journey to freedom as African Americans. It is also a personal struggle because we have to figure out who we are, where we come from and accept it to then be able to move forward. That statue represents us as a culture…so we are going to celebrate Black people,” Smith said.