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Philly's Winning Design for Harriet Tubman Statue Unveiled

Nov 02 – Nov 15, 2023
Praising the Past

harriet tubman

Philadelphia has selected the artist and design for the permanent Harriet Tubman statue that will join other public works on the City Hall apron.

Alvin Pettit’s A Higher Power: The Call of a Freedom Fighter won the submission contest out of four semi-finalists, the city announced last week.

The commission fulfills Mayor Jim Kenney’s goal to have a permanent statue of the abolition icon for Philadelphians.

Pettit’s work focuses on Tubman’s involvement in the Civil War, where she served the Union as a scout, spy, nurse and became the country’s first female to lead soldiers in an operation with assaults of plantations along the Combahee River in 1863, freeing 700 slaves.

The design unveiled at City Hall shows Tubman on bended knee with a rifle on her back, possibly in prayer or contemplation, which drew inspiration from a painting of George Washington praying in a forest.

“I thought it’s time we change the narrative,” Pettit said about choosing to portray Tubman in combat, not in flight with others as part of her well-known role on the Underground Railroad. “I turned to a moment in time that shows her as a conqueror. A former enslaved woman who spent most of her life in a state of tyrants was now on the offensive and finally had tyranny on the run from her.”
Note: Basil Watson and his creation was a semi-finalist in Philadelphia's search.

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