Harriet Tubman
Chantel Brink
Chantel Brink
March 16, 2023 ·  2 min read

A monument of Harriet Tubman now replaces a statue of Christopher Columbus in Newark

A fresh monument was revealed last Friday in Newark, New Jersey, in honor of abolitionist Harriet Tubman. The new installation, dubbed “Shadow of a Face,” replaced a long-standing Christopher Columbus statue.

The unveiling took place in Harriet Tubman Square. Appropriately renamed to commemorate both Tubman’s contributions to the Underground Railroad and the area’s history in the Black Liberation Movement. Newark Mayor Ras J.

Celebrating a momentous event in memory of Harriet Tubman

Baraka announced this news release. Stating that the title of the monument was influenced by Robert Hayden’s 1962 poem, “Runagate Runagate,” which includes a reference to Tubman. “In a time when so many cities are choosing to topple statues that limit the scope of their people’s story, we have instead chosen to erect a monument that spurs us into our future story of exemplary strength and solidity.” Baraka said in a statement.

“We have created a focal point in the heart of our city. One that expresses our participation in an ongoing living history of a people who have grappled through many conflicts to steadily lead our nation in its progress toward racial equality.” He added.

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According to a news release, the newly erected 25-foot monument comprises a circular learning wall engraved with stories of Harriet Tubman’s life and the history of Newark’s Black liberation movement, along with a mosaic of tiles. The portrait wall has an image of Tubman at its base. The mosaic comprises ceramic tiles that Newark residents commissioned.

Nina Cooke John, a New Jersey native, designed the monument. She stated that it honors not only Tubman’s legacy but also the lives of current Newark residents by connecting their stories to Tubman’s. “Her heroism is recognized, and space is claimed for her story in this historic park. While her humanity is made accessible so that we can all be empowered by her deeds both great and small.” Cooke John said in a news release.

A look back in time

Around 1822, Araminta Ross was born into slavery in Maryland but later changed her name to Harriet after marrying John Tubman. A free Black man, in 1844. In 1849, Tubman herself escaped slavery and went on to aid over 300 others in finding freedom. The Christopher Columbus statue that Tubman’s monument has now replaced was taken down in June 2020. This was amidst a nationwide reckoning on race following George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.

Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka explained in a June 2020 tweet that the Columbus statue was removed to prevent protesters from toppling or taking it down. The racial justice protests sparked the removal or renaming of several contentious monuments and statues across the United States.

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