• Harriet Tubman sculpture

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  • The Harriet Tubman "Journey To Freedom," traveling sculpture will be located at the Bridge Park in Sylva, N.C. from mid-September until mid-December. The sculpture was brought to Sylva courtesy of the Jackson County NAACP and the Town of Sylva, along with the help of many other community partners. The sculpture was created by Wesley Wofford of Cashiers, N.C.

    The 2,400-pound bronze piece depicts Harriet Tubman leading a young girl out of slavery. The statue arrived on Sunday, Sept. 19. Titled “Harriet Tubman: Journey to Freedom,” the piece was originally commissioned for a private building in Dallas, Texas, with Franklin, N.C., native Jada Bryson modeling Tubman as Wofford worked. When photos of the sculpture went viral, Wofford made a copy so that more people could experience the piece. It’s spent the last year touring the country, and its stop in Sylva will extend through Dec. 20 thanks to fundraising and organizational efforts from the NAACP. 

    Funding for the statue’s stay in Sylva came from the Dogwood Health Trust, with the Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center acting as the 501(c)3 agency to handle the money — the Jackson NAACP is a 501(c)4, so not directly eligible under the grant terms. The town provided the sculpture’s location, installation and security, with marketing and publicity support from the town, the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and the Jackson County Tourism Development Authority. 

    A dedication for the statue was held on Sunday, Sept. 26, and drew more than 350 people to Bridge Park. Liberty Baptist Church provided music, ministry and fellowship for the event.
    The NAACP hopes to use Tubman’s story as a launching pad to spotlight local African American history and heroes. Through a partnership with Western Carolina University, a self-guided African American Historical Tour of five key sites in Western North Carolina will soon be available, extending through December 2023. WCU’s Mountain Heritage Center completed extensive research for the tour in consultation with the WCU Department of Intercultural Affairs and branch elders at the Jackson NAACP. The Bardo Arts Center developed QR technology for the tour and will collaborate with the Jackson NAACP on learning activities for students in the three-county area of Jackson, Macon and Swain counties. In addition to aiding with research efforts, Intercultural Affairs has engaged college students and student organizations in related service learning.
    Who was Harriet Tubman?

    Born into slavery in March 1822 under the name Araminta Ross, Harriet Tubman married a free man named John Tubman and made the journey north in 1849, settling in Philadelphia and changing her name to Harriett. 

    Shortly thereafter, she returned to Maryland to rescue her family and subsequently made at least 13 missions south to liberate about 70 enslaved people, using the network of people and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad to aid her efforts. Her work earned her the code name “Moses” in reference to the Biblical figure who led the Israelites to the Promised Land. 

    “I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger,” Tubman said at an 1896 women’s suffrage convention. 

    Tubman worked for the Union Army during the Civil War, first as a nurse and then as a scout and spy, liberating more than 700 slaves when she guided the Combahee River Raid. That mission made her the first woman in the Civil War to lead an armed expedition. After the war she became an advocate for women’s voting rights and for impoverished former slaves and elderly people in her community of Auburn, New York. 

    View a video of the sculpture in Sylva by clicking HERE.

    (Video and photo above by Kelly Donaldson/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.)

    (Special thanks to Holly Kays with the Smoky Mountain News for the information above.)

  • Harriet Tubman Sculpture Video