Why Is Harriet Tubman Facing South? – NYTimes.com


A new 10-foot-tall bronze statue of Harriet Tubman in Harlem, part of a $2.8 million project, is being formally dedicated by the city at 1 p.m. on Thursday, but the work has confounded some observers because Tubman appears to be striding determinedly south, rather than heading north toward freedom.

The moment I saw the headline to this story, I knew exactly what the public complaints would be. I also, instinctively, knew that I’d disagree with any complaints: Harriet “Moses” Tubman was a conductor – in the literal sense of the word – for the Underground Railroad in the antebellum South. Despite her gender, her tiny size, and her status as a fugitive slave, she ignored the danger involved in orchestrating multiple escape plans for dozens of slaves, all of whom she led safely to freedom. To have her facing North emphasises the fuzzy-feeling happy endings to her expeditions, and underplays the risk she took on time and time again to shlep South. I love this monument for its pragmatism and its reality – the Tubman depicted in the statue strides determinedly South, and reveals a true Tough Broad in action.

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