Philadelphia Reveals Black Artist’s Design for Harriet Tubman Statue
After facing backlash for selecting a white artist to create the Harriet Tubman statue, the city of Philadelphia is moving forward with a Black artist’s winning design.
Alvin Pettit’s design for the permanent, 14-foot bronze Tubman statue shows the abolitionist with her fists clenched in prayer as she prepares for battle.
“This woman was a soldier, a scout, a union spy, a military strategist, and a war hero,” said the Jersey City–based sculptor. “Therefore, I captured a moment in time that shows her as a conqueror.”
According to the Associated Press, Pettit’s “A Higher Power: The Call of a Freedom Freedom Fighter,” will portray Tubman as a military leader.
“She is shown in majestic prayer. Perhaps she is calling upon her faith or contemplating a battle,” Pettit said of his clay model of the design.
The work will be the first portrayal of a historical Black woman in the city’s public art collection. A white male artist was initially selected by the city to create the statue, but he withdrew his submission amid heavy criticism at the time.
“As an artist, it’s hurtful and it is traumatizing,” artist Dee Jones told city officials during a meeting in June 2022, according to BIN. “If it was an open call, and Wesley was chosen, it would be fine. But because the process wasn’t open, that’s the big issue.”
Following the backlash, Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy issued an open call for submissions. Members of Tubman’s family ultimately helped choose Petitt for the design process.
Petitt’s Tubman statue is expected to be completed in 2025. City funds will be used to fund the project, which will cost $500,000, Art News reports.