New York
New York  Art at Site Alison Saar	Swing Low: Harriet Tubman Memorial

Alison Saar

Swing Low: Harriet Tubman Memorial
St. Nicholas Avenue, Frederick Douglass Boulevard
A new 10-foot-tall bronze statue of Harriet Tubman in Harlem, part of a $2.8 million project, is being formally dedicated by the city at 1 p.m. on Thursday, but the work has confounded some observers because Tubman appears to be striding determinedly south, rather than heading north toward freedom.
The blog Uptown Flavor asked why the statue faces south and generated strong responses from readers who said the decision reflected ignorance or intellectual laziness. A viewer on the Web site for Current, a user-generated television and video network, asked of the statue, “Was it mounted wrong?”
Jacob Morris, director of the non-profit Harlem Historical Society, said neighbors were so upset about the south-facing statue that there is a petition with 1,000 signatures calling for the city to reverse her field of vision. “We are serious,” he said. “We hate what they did. It is just an outrage.”
Tubman (1822-1913), a runaway slave and conductor of the Underground Railroad who was called Moses by the people she helped free during her trips between the South and the North, also supported women’s right to vote. Her nighttime missions, with the North Star as a guide, started in the slaveholding state of Maryland and typically ended in Canada.
So why does the new two-ton statue of Tubman — her sense of purpose so strong that she pulls up roots as she walks along — have her facing south?
“She’s best known for her sojourns north,” said Alison Saar, the sculptor of the work, titled “Swing Low,” “but what is most impressive to me are her trips south, where she risked her own freedom.”
“As impressive as her courage and commitment was, what is amazing to me is her compassion,” said Ms. Saar, 52. “Harriet Tubman is calling on all of us to look at the compassion within each of us.”