White Plains, New York (NY) – June 19, 2022: Harriet Tubman Statue (Shutterstock)
By Christina Fan, CBS New York
NEWARK, N.J. — Newark commemorated Juneteenth on Monday by honoring an abolitionist who dedicated her life to leading enslaved Africans to freedom.
The city renamed a popular park Harriet Tubman Square and also commissioned a statue in her honor.
CBS2’s Christina Fan spoke to the artist about the significance of the work.
It was a momentous recognition for a monumental figure in American history. Newark’s Washington Park was re-named for a pioneer who helped make emancipation possible.
“I think what we are doing is uplifting history. We’re straightening it out, allowing people to see full history,” Mayor Ras Baraka said.
Baraka said Monday’s dedication marked a pivotal moment acknowledging underrepresented stories that all Americans should value. The newly named park will also feature a new interactive monument of Tubman.
Artist Nina Cooke John explained what inspired her design.
“Just the fact that once she made it to freedom, it wasn’t enough for her to revel in that. It really was community that pushed her to go back,” Cooke John said.
While the monument celebrates New Jersey’s role in the Underground Railroad, the state’s first lady, Tammy Murphy, reminded the crowd that New Jersey was the last northern state to abolish slavery.
“There is no doubt that the effects of that evil continue to ripple through our communities today,” Murphy said.
As a way to fight inequality, Newark announced plans to create an Arts and Education District. Stretching from Broad Street Station to Lincoln Park, the area will include galleries, parks, and educational institutions.
“Art is often thought of as a great connector, bringing together different cultures, neighborhoods, and even millennia,” Newark Museum of Art CEO Linda Harrison said.
The city is starting conversations about difficult topics to foster social and political change for generations to come.
The new monument is expected to be completed this fall, and will replace a statue of Christopher Columbus that was removed in 2020.