Photography: Wesley Wofford’s “The Journey to Freedom” at Philadelphia City Hall

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A friend of mine is a grade school teacher. She had last week off for the mid-Winter break, and she didn’t have much planned. She texted me early last week and suggested a trip to Philadelphia for like a day or two. I hadn’t left the New York area since November 2019 — when I was in Montreal to cover that year’s M for Montreal — and I had been itching to go somewhere. 

A few things helped to make the trip possible:

  • COVID infection numbers have been on a rapid decline over the past month. If I were asked about hitting the road in January, I would have declined. 
  • We were only planning to be out of town for about a day or two. (I had to be back in New York because my mom and I had tickets to see Hasan Minhaj at Radio City Music Hall.)
  • I know Center City Philly fairly well. I had been to Philly a handful of times over the past decade — mainly for business trips tied into a day job. But I was also in Philly once for The Roots Picnic

Our first full day in town was very busy: We got up and had the hotel’s free breakfast. The first thing I wanted to see was John Coltrane‘s house in North Philly. We eventually wound up back in Center City Philly to see Wesley Wofford‘s The Journey to Freedom at Philadelphia’s City Hall.

The nine foot statue will be at the North end of Philly’s City Hall until the end of Mach to celebrate Harriet Tubman’s 200th birthday, as well as Black History and Women’s History Months.

Tubman has a deep connection to The City of Brotherly Love, making her way there in 1849 after escaping slavery in Maryland. She would use the Underground Railroad’s network of homes and churches in the Philadelphia area to help free about 70 enslaved Black people from Maryland.

The monument’s base incorporates the Pennsylvania-Maryland state line and the Maryland-Delaware portion of the Delmarva Peninsula in its shape. The statue features a determined and fearless Tubman, leading a young and very scared girl to freedom in Pennsylvania. The young girl is leaving a set of shackles behind in Maryland.

After its residency in The City of Brotherly Love ends on March 31, 2022, the sculpture will head to White Plains.