One of These Five Black Artists’ Designs Will Be Chosen for the Harriet Tubman Memorial in Philadelphia

In 2022, Philadelphia announced plans for a memorial dedicated to abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who helped rescue dozens of escaped people after escaping slavery herself. The original proposal included a statue by Wesley Wofford, a white male artist, prompting residents' criticism. Fortunately, the City of Philadelphia's Office of Arts Culture, and the Creative Economy (OACCE) listened to people's feedback and collected five new potential designs, all by Black artists.

The OACCE presented models and conceptual images of each of the sculptures and asked the public to fill out a 15-minute survey to help choose the final candidate. Each of these sculptures, if chosen, will be life-size and installed on the Northeast apron of City Hall. Artist Vinne Bagwell proposed a 9-foot-tall statue of Tubman titled Harriet Tubman, City of Liberty, which depicts the historic figure standing with her palms raised. On her long dress are reliefs of different motifs, including braille, text, and Dwennimen and Sankofa Adinkra symbols. Richard Blake‘s proposal has no name yet but features a large-scale portrayal of Tubman holding a lantern underneath the Liberty Bell, representing both Philadelphia and the abolitionist movement.

Artist Tanda Francis is the only artist who put forward a bust-like statue. Titled Together in Freedom, it includes a portrait of Tubman's face framed by multiple other profile silhouettes in polished bronze. These renderings are placed over a keystone, referencing Pennsylvania as the “Keystone State.” The fourth design, also untitled, is created by Alvin Pettit and features an 11-foot depiction of Tubman in a prayer pose as powerful winds throw back her coat. At her feet are broken shackles, signifying her freedom and determination. Lastly, artist Basil Watson submitted a sculpture called Keep Going, where Tubman is portrayed leading a group of four other figures. Here, she is pictured in action, seemingly running toward challenges with grit and determination.

Voting for the Harriet Tubman memorial statue closes on September 1, 2023. After this, all of the artists will be given an opportunity to make changes to their pieces before submitting them to the African-American Statue Advisory Committee in October, which will make the final decision. You can see all of the statues, below, and read more about their meaning via the OACCE's website.

The city of Philadelphia has proposed five designs by Black artists for the Harriet Tuban memorial. One will be chosen through a public vote. The survey closes on September 1, 2023.


Vinnie Bagwell, Harriet Tubman, City of Liberty


Richard Blake, Artwork Title TBD


Tanda Francis, Together in Freedom


Alvin Pettit, Artwork Title TBD


Basil Watson, Keep Going

h/t: [DesignTAXI]

All images via the City of Philadelphia's Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy.

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
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