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.
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.