BY Bryan Chai, The Western JournalMarch 12, 2023
1 year ago
 | March 12, 2023
1 year ago

Replacement for Columbus Statue Unveiled: Monument to Black Icon That Plays Audio Recordings from Queen Latifah

A historic, classic statue of Christopher Columbus has been replaced with a more modernist take on art featuring famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

The new monument, situated in the heart of Newark, New Jersey, was unveiled on Thursday in the recently renamed Harriet Tubman Square. Up until the recent unrest stemming from the death of George Floyd, the park was actually known as Washington Park.

"In a time when so many cities are choosing to topple statutes that limit the scope of their people’s story, we have chosen to erect a monument that spurs us into our future story of exemplary strength and solidity," Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka said in a statement, via CNN.

Baraka's reference to "statues that limit the scope of their people's story" appears to be a fairly unsubtle shot at Columbus, who has been painted as something of a villain in recent years, over the alleged mistreatment of indigenous populations in America.

Of note, one particular criticism of Columbus in recent years has linked the famed explorer to the proliferation of slavery in the West.

That last, racially charged critique of Columbus is at the heart of why his statue was originally removed in 2020 amid social justice protests following the death of George Floyd.

Despite his place in history, those connections between Columbus and racial grievances have all but rendered his numerous accomplishments moot.

Tubman, by contrast, clearly comes with none of those perceived concerns.

“We have created a focal point in the heart of our city that expresses our participation in an ongoing living history of a people who have grappled through many conflicts to steadily lead our nation in its progress toward racial equality," Baraka's statement said.

Some on social media have expressed disgust that the classical statue of Columbus had been replaced with something decidedly less classical.

The original statue, which showed a posed Columbus, has been replaced with Tubman's face and a peculiar, almost Christmas tree-looking depiction of Tubman's silhouette. The new monument is titled "Shadow of a Face," a reference to a 1962 poem that mentions Tubman.

According to CNN, the new monument features the above face and monument, as well as a new mosaic of tiles containing stories of Tubman's life and other stories about black history.

Additionally, the monument will have an audio component. Former rapper and entertainer Queen Latifah will narrate various stories covering Tubman's life.

The divisive reception of "Shadow of a Face" echoes another similar recent backlash involving an important figure from black history.

In January, a new bronze sculpture honoring Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, was unveiled in Boston.

That bronze sculpture was similarly panned for its peculiar physical design and appearance.

In fact, even a relative of King felt that the sculpture was an overall miss.

“If you had showed that statute to anyone in the ’hood, they’d have been like, ‘No, absolutely not,'” Seneca Scott, cousin to Coretta King, said about the statue shortly after it was revealed.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

Written by: Bryan Chai, The Western Journal



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