New Harriet Tubman Monument “Shadow of a Face” Unveiled in Newark

Earlier this month, the new Harriet Tubman monument replaced a long-standing statue of Christopher Columbus, which was removed in June 2020 amid calls for racial justice. The Harriet Tubman monument puts New Jersey at the forefront of a nationwide movement to design a more inclusive, diverse, and community-centered approach to commissioning civic public art.

Designed by Nina Cooke John, “Shadow of a Face” opened to the public in Harriet Tubman Square, renamed from Washington Park on Juneteenth of 2022. The monument pays homage to both Tubman’s and Newark’s roles in the Underground Railroad and the rich history of Black liberation movements in the area. “Shadow of a Face” will be the centerpiece of a community gathering space. In the City of Newark press release, Nine Cooke John explains that “Shadow of a Face celebrates both the legacy of Harriet Tubman and the lives of the people living in Newark today – connecting their story to Tubman’s story through a common bond of seekers of liberty in the past and in the present.” Nina Cooke John titled the monument “Shadow of a Face” after the 1962 poem by Robert Hayden, “Runagate Runagate.” “Shadow of a Face” was chosen in June 2021 through a national open call and multi-phase selection process. Nina Cooke John said that community engagement was crucial to her design proposal.

Harriet Tubman escaped slavery and became a leading abolitionist. She guided hundreds of enslaved people to freedom through the route of the Underground Railroad. Quoted in the City of Newark’s press release, Mayor Ras J. Baraka said, “We have created a focal point in the heart of our city that expressed 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. Harriet Tubman Square and its interactive centerpiece sculpture, “Shadow of a Face,” represent our past, present, and future.” First Lady Tammy Murphy said, “Harriet Tubman was a trailblazer, both literally and figuratively, whose legacy is a testament to the strength and resilience of the African American community in our country. Her unwavering commitment to freedom, justice, and equality has inspired countless others to stand up and fight for their rights.”

The Harriet Tubman monument honors her memory and recognizes her lasting influence as, according to First Lady Murphy, “we strive to build a more just and equitable New Jersey for all.”

Click here for the City of Newark’s press release Mayor Baraka Unveils Harriet Tubman Monument in Newark’s Downtown.

For press images, click here.