Grant helps bring Tubman to
Bucks County Courier Times
Bringing Harriet Tubman to Bristol's waterfront isn't cheap.
But a recent $100,000 grant
from two state legislators can defray the costs of sculpting
a life-size monument to the most famous conductor of the
Historical and Cultural Society of Bucks County, based in
Bristol, is heading the project to build a 6-foot, 5-inch
bronze statue of Tubman in Lions Park at the end of Mill
With help from the state
representatives Thomas Corrigan, D-140 (Bucks), and Dwight
Evans, D-203 (Philadelphia), what was once the society's
vision could more quickly become a reality. Each official
organized a $50,000 grant for the project.
"Harriet Tubman is the most
important person in Underground Railroad history and in
African-American history," said Sidney Taylor, president of
the African-American Historical and Cultural Society of
Bucks County. "Without her, you almost don't have
African-American history. That's why this monument is so
Tubman made 19 trips into the
South and led more than 300 slaves to freedom by traveling
at night and following the North Star. She worked for the
Union during the Civil War and eventually settled in Auburn,
N.Y., where she died in 1913.
"I was really surprised at
what I did not know five years ago about Tubman," Corrigan
said of his decision to help finance the monument. "I can't
imagine a black lady traveling from the Deep South to
Philadelphia or Bucks County in the 1840s. You have to be a
very daring person. I am really enamored by what she's
Sculptor James Gafgen, of
Morrisville, has just begun work on the full-scale sculpture
of Tubman. Gafgen also sculpted the monument on Jefferson
Avenue of Michael Dougherty, who received a Medal of Honor
from Congress for fighting for the Union in the Civil War.
Gafgen also created a statue of Robert Morris, founder of
Morrisville and a financier of the Revolutionary War.
"She will look like she's
stopped running and is slightly crouching, with her back
bowed a little bit," Gafgen said. "She'll be looking to her
left and pointing with her arm to the North Star, which, of
course, will be very symbolic."
Gafgen said he loves to sculpt
historical figures and "put back a piece of history."
"There's a certain personality
to capture," he explained. "There's a very strong will to
capture in Tubman. There has to be some kind of monument to
show the gratitude of the families she led to freedom."
The grant won't quite cover
the entire cost of the sculpture, though. Taylor and the
society still need to raise another $50,000 to $75,000 to
finish the project, which includes building 10 granite
pillars engraved with quotes about freedom.
"Our idea is to have Harriet
surrounded by these pillars, which will be shaped like a
circle," Taylor said. "We haven't worked out all the details
with the pillars, but we're considering quotes from
Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady
Stanton, among other people."
It will take Gafgen about nine
months to a year to finish what will be the only
freestanding monument of Tubman in the country. Taylor hopes
to have an unveiling in early 2006.
Corrigan represents Bristol,
Morrisville, Tullytown, Falls, two districts in Bristol
Township and one district in Middletown.
Barbara J. Isenberg
can be reached at 215-949-4190 or