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Monument and Myth: Commemorating Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad

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James L. Gafgen, Harriet Ross Tubman Memorial, 2006, Bristol Park, Bristol, Pennsylvania. Photograph by Renée Ater.

One of the most well-known African Americans of the nineteenth century, Harriet Tubman has been and is memorialized through her name, which adorns numerous schools, roads, bridges, parks, and plaques across the United States. She is equally well represented in sculpture. “Monument and Myth: Commemorating Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad” focuses on how contemporary artists have depicted the famed freedom fighter in three-dimensional form. This digital exhibit also considers how artists and communities have engaged the mythic Tubman to acknowledge the history of slavery, abolition, and freedom in the public spaces of their towns, cities, and states.

The exhibit includes the following sections:

  • a short biography of the historical Harriet Tubman;

  • a brief history of the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman's role as conductor;

  • a consideration of the photographic representation of Harriet Tubman and how contemporary sculptors have used these images as source material;

  • maps and a timeline; and

  • an in-depth analysis and interpretation of three monuments to Harriet Tubman.

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