The great abolitionist Harriet Tubman, made 14 trips on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War to guide others to freedom. This took a lot of heart. 14 items will be placed within the glass heart to represent important facets of her life story and commitment to freedom.
Cheryl Derricotte is a visual artist and her favorite mediums are glass and paper. Originally from Washington, DC, she lives and makes art in San Francisco, CA. Her art has been featured in the New York Times, The Guardian, The San Francisco Chronicle, MerciSF and the San Francisco Business Times. In 2021 she was awarded the commission to develop a monument to Harriet Tubman at the new transit-oriented development, Gateway at Millbrae Station; it is believed to be the first sculptural tribute to Tubman in glass. www.CherylDerricotteStudio.com
Beginning in 2016, the former US Treasury Secretary proposed putting Harriet Tubman's image on the $20 bill by 2020. The goal was to have her on the bill by the 100th anniversary of the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote. This action had bi-partisan support, more and more of a rarity in the US. Frustrated by set-backs from the Trump Administration, artist Dano Wall made a 3-D stamp and encouraged others to use his model to make their own. Through his own sale of stamps, he raised money for charities. See https://tubmanstamp.com/Currently, it is 2022 and we are still waiting. Some stay it may be as long as 2030 before we actually see Harriet Tubman on US currency. In the meantime, I stamped a $20 using one of the many variations of Dano Wall's stamp sold on Etsy and put it into my glass heart.
2. Critical Biography
There is one well-regarded critical biography of Harriet Tubman’s life. Entitled “Harriet Tubman Portrait of an American Hero: Bound for the Promised Land,” this work by scholar Dr. Kate Clifford Larson debunks a lot of the myths surrounding Harriet’s life. This picture of the book cover was placed into the heart.
3. Feminist Perspectives
Much to my delight, my monument design was featured with an essay by Dr. Larson for Ms. Magazine's celebration of Harriet Tubman's 200th birthday . You can read the full article here: https://msmagazine.com/2022/02/08/harriet-tubman-life-myth-misinformation-civil-rights-slavery/ I put a copy into the glass heart.
4. Wealthy & Wise
I wrote the number "3" on a piece of paper and put it into the heart. Every article or book about Harriet Tubman states that she died poor. While she may not have had cash on hand, she owned over 30 acres of land, with 3 buildings. Her properties were located in Auburn, NY and she donated them to here the AME Zion church where she had been a long-time member. Philanthropists, like Harriet Tubman, have big hearts.
A lot of the myths about Harriet Tubman’s life, came from two early biographies written by her friend, Sarah Hopkins Bradford. Bradford was an abolitionist, and she wrote highly embellished versions of Harriet’s life story -- so that Harriet would have income. Harriet had struggled for years to get the US government to pay her a pension for her time as a Civil War nurse, and the widow of a Civil War Veteran, her second husband, Nelson Davis. Her friends decided that her story would appeal to a wide audience and Sarah agreed to write it. We could all use a friend like Sarah. She had a big heart.
I put a small cloth handkerchief in the heart, to remember the tears in Congress when Sen. Cory Booker addressed the chamber during the confirmation proceedings of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. When confirmed, she will be the first Black woman on the US Supreme Court. “Throughout his monologue, Booker cited the Black men and women who had helped pave a path for Jackson and himself. He talked about how the abolitionist Harriet Tubman was beaten before she escaped slavery, then went back to save other slaves, establishing a network of safe houses. Tubman, Booker said, would gaze at the night sky looking for a star that was a "harbinger of hope." “I thought about her. And how she looked up, she kept looking up no matter what they did to her she never stopped looking up. And that star was a harbinger of hope,” Booker said. "Today, you're my star. You are my harbinger of hope. This country's getting better and better and better. And when that final vote happens, and you ascend on to the highest court in the land, I'm going to rejoice.”” Link to the full video here: https://www.yahoo.com/news/booker-brings-jackson-to-tears-with-impassioned-speech-you-are-my-star-231627224.html
7. Military Service
The National Portrait Gallery ( https://npg.si.edu/object/npg_NPG.2006.31 ) states that Artist John G. Darby (1830-1860's) created this woodcut of Harriet Tubman for the book, Scenes in the life of Harriet Tubman (1868). It commemorates her service to the Union Army as a spy during the Civil War. It should be noted that Harriet was never paid for her service by the US Government and she sued them in a bid for women's financial independence. Ultimately, she received her husband's pension as a widow, but not her own.
8. Combahee River
The military operation that Harriet Tubman was known for leading, happened along the Combahee River in South Carolina. It is estimated that 700 slaves were freed during this offensive during the Civil War.
9. Colt 45
The other firearm that was associated with Harriet Tubman was the “Colt 45.” Legend has it that Samuel Colt made the 6-shooter in the 1840's at the request of a Texas ranger. The Mexican War and the Civil War made Colt and his heirs a rich man. Read more on the Smithsonian's website: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/day-1847-texas-ranger-walked-samuel-colts-shop-and-said-make-me-six-shooter-180961621 / It was no secret that if a slave got cold feet on an underground railroad journey, Harriet would threaten to kill them. She was acutely aware that anyone who was captured or turned back would be tortured and ultimately reveal information about her trips. So, there were only two options: keep running or die on the road to freedom.
10. The Bible
The other item that Harriet Tubman carried was a Bible. The image I placed in the heart is a photo of a Civil War-era bible from an Antiquarian bookseller I found online.
11. Songs of Freedom
Harriet Tubman was known for being a person of great faith - the bible she carried was not just for show. She often sang freedom songs, both as expressions of faith and coded messages for the slaves about when “the train” was leaving on the underground railroad. The words of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, had the double meaning of going home, to freedom on earth, and to Heaven. (Sheet Music Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SwingLowSweetChariot1873.jpg)
12. Her Boots
As much walking as Harriet Tubman did on her journeys, it would make sense that she wore functional boots. It was interesting to see how the costume designers for the movie “Harriet” designed the footwear, as we know a slave would not have any new items. The boots are warm and rugged and look like the tips of shoes we see under her long skirts in photographs that were taken of Harriet Tubman during her life time. We know she was a fashionable woman from a young age, and was careful with her appearance, styling whatever clothes she was given with flair. (Source: https://hollywoodmoviecostumesandprops.blogspot.com/2019/11/cynthia-erivos-harriet-tubman-movie.html)
Of all the things I learned about Harriet Tubman, I have a special fondness of this picture of her with her family. Harriet is on the left holding the bowl, her 2nd husband , Civil War veteran Nelson Davis—who was 22 years her junior, is seated next to her. Standing in between them is their adopted daughter. Other family members and friends who lived on property are pictured. Freedom looks good.
14. Portrait of Harriet Tubman
The final image I placed in the heart, is the portrait of Harriet Tubman, taken by Harvey B. Lindsley c. 1871-1876, courtesy of the US Library of Congress. She is approximately 48-53 years old. At this stage in her life, she often did talks for abolitionists and suffragists, so a formal portrait of her may have accompanied the promotions for these events.