Mayor Ras J. Baraka announced that in honor of Harriet Tubman Day, the City of Newark is receiving major support from the Mellon Foundation and Audible, for the new Harriet Tubman Monument in Washington Park. The park will be renamed Harriet Tubman Square later this year when the monument is permanently installed.
Funds will cover the physical construction of the monument, immersive visitor audio experience, and innovative, educational, cultural, and historical programming in conjunction with the Newark Museum of Art, the Newark Public Library, the Newark City Parks Foundation, Newark Arts, Rutgers University – Newark, and local artists.
“Newark has continually been recognized for its forward-thinking leadership on reimagining our public spaces and creating public art that inclusively tell the story of our people,” Mayor Baraka said. “The Harriet Tubman monument will enable her life of heroic achievement to inspire present and future generations of Newark residents, and add a critical component to their ability to reclaim and tell their own story. I would like to thank the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Audible, and all of our cultural institution partners for helping us to make this vision a reality.”
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has committed $350,000 to the project as part of its national initiative called the Monuments Project, a $250 million commitment to transform the nation’s commemorative landscape by supporting public projects that more completely and accurately represent the multiplicity and complexity of American stories.
“We are honored to support the construction of this new monument and related public programming, which recognizes the unshakably resolute and visionary life’s work of Harriet Tubman,” said Elizabeth Alexander, President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “We are delighted they are grounded in Newark and the broader work underway in the city’s parks, libraries, and other public spaces that center learning and culture, and that these efforts will continue to lift up the stories of those, like Tubman, who have shaped our collective history.”
As the monument content creator, Audible will provide its unique expertise to curate several audio features that accompany the experiential monument once finalized including the seminal stories of Tubman’s life intertwining with Newark’s role in the Underground Railroad and free Black communities. One additional feature, audio stories of Newark residents, will kick off with the opening of a recording booth at the Newark Public Library on Saturday, March 26, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Collaboration with Audible’s program and content teams is powered by a $300,000 contribution to the construction and audio programing of the Tubman monument.
“We’re proud to work with the City of Newark on this immersive audio experience that not only celebrates the life and legacy of Harriet Tubman, but shines a light on the breadth of trailblazing stories found in our own community,” said Aisha Glover, Vice President of Urban Innovation at Audible. “At Audible, we understand the importance of harnessing the acute power of storytelling, and this project will ensure both Tubman’s own history and the everyday stories of Newark residents are seen, heard and felt for generations to come.”
Newark Arts hopes to raise additional dollars to support educational and cultural programming in the form of individual donations. Residents and community organizations are invited to donate online by visiting https://newarkarts.org/harriet-tubman-monument-project/. Resident and organization contributions can “buy a brick” to be placed in a designated section of the monument, thereby cementing their own presence during this historic period in Newark.
In June 2021, Mayor Baraka announced that after a careful and transparent selection process, Nina Cooke John’s monument design – Shadow of a Face – was selected to replace a statue of Christopher Columbus that was removed from Washington Park in the summer of 2020. John’s design envisions the renamed park as a place of pilgrimage where people will visit from all corners of Newark and beyond to learn about Tubman’s life and journey.
Mayor Baraka encourages residents to celebrate, commemorate, and learn about the great contributions of Tubman, the Underground Railroad’s role in Newark, and the abolitionists that helped make freedom a reality for millions of people.
Over the next several months, community workshops will continue, and the Monument Design Team will develop associated curriculum and educational and cultural programming to complement the monument. The groundbreaking for the monument is scheduled to take place in honor of Juneteenth, with a formal unveiling in the Fall of 2022.
Residents are also invited to attend a public meeting hosted by the Newark People’s Assembly and the Newark City Parks Foundation on plans for Harriet Tubman Square on Tuesday, March 22, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Newark Museum of Art.