Philadelphia picks winning design for Harriet Tubman statue after controversy over original choice


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Alvin Pettit beat out four other semifinalists with a design called “A Higher Power: The Call of a Freedom Fighter.”

Artist, Alvin Pettit speaks at the podium as his winning sculpture of Harriet Tubman is unveiled on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023, at Philadelphia Hall in Philadelphia. (Jose F. Moreno/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The city of Philadelphia has picked the winning design for a Harriet Tubman statue outside City Hall after facing criticism over its original choice of a white artist who’d been selected without competition.

Alvin Pettit beat out four other semifinalists with a design called “A Higher Power: The Call of a Freedom Fighter.” His nearly 14-foot bronze statue — the first of a Black woman who is a historical figure in the city’s public art collection — will portray Tubman as a military leader and freedom fighter.

The famed abolitionist — who escaped slavery and led other enslaved Black women and men to freedom on the Underground Railroad — worked as a scout, spy and nurse for the Union Army during the Civil War, and helped lead 150 Black soldiers on a gunboat raid in South Carolina.

“She is shown in majestic prayer. Perhaps she is calling upon her faith or contemplating a battle,” said Pettit, a Baltimore-bred artist based in Jersey City, New Jersey, at a news conference Monday as a clay model of the forthcoming sculpture was unveiled at City Hall.

“This woman was a soldier, a scout, a union spy, a military strategist, and a war hero,” he said. “Therefore I captured a moment in time that shows her as a conqueror.”

Read more about the original controversial decision at the Associated Press.

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