Revitalization of South End’s Harriet Tubman Park – “Step on Board”

By Gary Bailey ,DHL,MSW,ACSW

was a lot of activity this summer at the Harriett Tubman Park located at the corners of Columbus Avenue between Pembroke and West Newton Streets.

After a several years of planning, and fundraising, a visit to the park by Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and the unwavering advocacy of South End resident Frieda Garcia, the park has received a much-needed sprucing up in the form of some replanting and refurbishing.

This refurbishing could not have happened at a better time. Visitors to the park have increased significantly since the announcement that Tubman’s face will be on the twenty dollar bill. This was followed by the discovery of a rare and unknown portrait of the famed abolitionist that was sold at an auction in New York City in March 2017 and then it was announced that the portrait would be shared by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Library of Congress.

This verdant oasis which until now had only had minimal grown ivy ground cover now has a solar powered in ground irrigation system, among the plantings are hydrangeas, roses, Sunday Gloves White day Lilly, Spotted Dead nettle, and ornamental grasses., as well as the replacement of a fir that had been damaged; with mulch added as another type of ground cover. Next, the paths inside of the park are slated to have stone dust added; and the benches are to be cleaned, and oiled.

The design for the plantings was developed by the BSC Group; and Quincy’s W.C. Caniff & Sons oversaw the planting. The crew was very amenable and accessible to curious neighbors and others about the work that was occurring. Support for the parks refurbishing has come from the Browne Fund; the City of Boston Parks Department; and the Mayor’s Office.

The Tubman statue, is the first statue on City-owned property honoring a woman stands along with  along with another statue -’Emancipation”-by Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller , which was commissioned to commemorate the centennial of the issuance of Emancipation Proclamation;  the park is among the only in the country featuring works by two African American female sculptures.

Tubman biographer and Simmons College alumna Kate Larson speaking this past spring at the Harriet Tubman House/ United South End Settlements stressed that people needed to continue to advocate with the US Mint to ensure that Harriett Tubman does indeed make it onto the new $20 bill – given the recent changes in administrations.

For now, “Mother Moses” as Tubman was affectionately called has a home that is worthy of her name and that neighbors and visitors from around the world can enjoy.

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