Washington Park, the northernmost of three colonial public spaces in downtown Newark, New Jersey, is being renamed Tubman Square after a new memorial to abolitionist Harriet Tubman was installed in the park next year. The memorial will replace a statue of Christopher Columbus that was removed from the triangular public green space in June 2020. The removal of the statue of Columbus (one of two in Newark) was part of a larger movement that emerged in the United States and beyond last summer to remove monuments to historical figures dealing with oppression, enslavement, and white supremacy in public Space are connected.
What the Tubman memorial will look like, Newark officials recently unveiled the finalists’ five design proposals, which are now open for public feedback until May 24th. (The finalists themselves were announced in early March.) A 14-person selection committee made up of artists, curators, historians and community stakeholders will select the winning design to replace Columbus in Washington Park. The judging panel, led by Fayemi Shakur, Director of Arts and Culture for the City of Newark, will consider feedback from the community in making its selection. The winning proposal will be announced in June.
The five finalists’ suggestions are: Harriet’s Bridge by Abigail DeVille, Keep Going by Dread Scott, Freedom Train by Jules Arthur, Shadow of a Face by Nina Cooke John and Harriet Tubman on the Road to Freedom by Vinnie Bagwell.
Shadow of a Face by Nina Cooke John (Studio Cooke John / Courtesy Newark) Carry on with Dread Scott (Dread Scott / Courtesy of Newark)
As indicated by the city, the winning artist / designer will work with a Newark-based artist who, in the role of project apprentice, supports community engagement and research.
“We are now selecting from five brilliant memorial designs to determine which one will honor Harriet Tubman and the subway in our city,” Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka said in a statement. “We want Newark residents to be involved in this process and let us know which designs they like the most. This memorial will reflect how Newark honors one of our great pioneers and warriors, and so should in turn reflect the views of our residents. “
While all finalists are recognized on their own, Jamaica-born Cooke John, an architect and educator who serves as the founding director of New York-based multidisciplinary architecture and design firm Studio Cooke John, could be the finalist most familiar to AN readers .
Harriet’s Bridge by Abigail DeVille (Abigail DeVille / Courtesy of the City of Newark) Harriet Tubman on the Road to Freedom by Vinnie Bagwell (Vinnie Bagwell / Courtesy of the City of Newark)
While Tubman is largely connected to Delaware and its home, Maryland, as well as Philadelphia and the city of Auburn, New York, Newark, New Jersey’s largest city and one of the oldest cities in the United States, served as the key stop on the Underground Railroad. Born into slavery, Tubman was perhaps the most famous “conductor” on the extensive network of secret routes and safe houses established by anti-slavery activists to move enslaved African Americans from the south to free states in the north and on to Canada.
For more design renderings and mockups, as well as in-depth video presentations of each artist / designer’s proposal, please visit this detailed public review page. Here, too, the public has until May 24th to weigh up the finalist designs. Donations for the Harriet Tubman Monument Project can also be made here.