Harriet Tubman sculpture to be displayed on the Hammock Coast

29 Jan

Harriet Tubman sculpture to be displayed on the Hammock Coast

Later this year, the City of Georgetown and Georgetown County, known as South Carolina’s Hammock Coast®, will celebrate the life and legacy of Harriet Tubman, the accomplishments of her great-nephew, James Bowley, who lived in Georgetown.

For three months, beginning on Aug. 1, 2023, a nine-foot sculpture of Tubman, one of the most well-known abolitionists and social activists in American history, will stand in Joseph H. Rainey Park in downtown Georgetown. On Oct. 31, 2023, it will move to Brookgreen Gardens near Murrells Inlet to be displayed there for two more months.

The planning committee for the visiting sculpture, dubbed “Bringing Harriet Home: Journey to Freedom, a Monumental Event,” held a press conference recently at Rainey Park to make the announcement. With representatives from the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce, the City of Georgetown, Brookgreen Gardens, Georgetown County, the Georgetown Business Association, the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce, the Georgetown County School District, the Georgetown County Museum, the Georgetown County Library, and the Pawleys Island Litchfield Business Association, the committee is planning several events for the public and educational opportunities for local students relating to the sculpture.

“This has been a collaboration of the city and county governments, the school district, and the major tourism and marketing organizations in Georgetown County,” said Marilyn Hemingway, president and founder of the Gullah Geechee Chamber of Commerce. “We decided to have this event to celebrate Harriet Tubman, not only because of her life, her courage and her leadership, but because of her connection to Georgetown. Shee never made it to Georgetown, but she was very aware of Georgetown and raised funds constantly to support the efforts of her great nephew.

Tubman’s connection to Georgetown

Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and subsequently made some 13 missions to rescue approximately 70 slaves, including family and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. After accomplishing her own escape from enslavement, it was Harriet Tubman’s deep love for her family that propelled her to return to Maryland slave territory to rescue enslaved family members in 1849.

Bowley, his baby sister Araminta, and their mother Kessiah (Tubman’s niece) were the first people Tubman rescued. Once free, Tubman ensured that James received a coveted education. 

Denied the right to an education herself, Tubman knew that literacy was its own liberation. Working long hours to pay for James’ tuition in a Philadelphia school during the 1850s secured his bright future.

After the Civil War, Bowley settled at 231 King St. in Georgetown, where he worked with newly freed people as a teacher and eventually as commissioner of 60 Georgetown County schools. Supported by the Freedman’s Bureau and resources raised (money, books, clothing, food and supplies) by Tubman and her allies in Auburn, New York, Bowley expanded educational opportunities for many in Georgetown County.

Bowley was eventually elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives and served as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. As a trustee of the University of South Carolina, he opened the doors for Blacks to attend the venerable institution in 1873. Later he published a newspaper (the Georgetown Planet) and became a distinguished probate judge.

Co-chairs of the planning committee for Bringing Harriet Home, Steve Williams, historian and author, and Kent Hermes, who owns Bowley’s former house in Georgetown, attended the press conference.

Williams, who wrote a children’s book titled, “As I Travel Along,” which details the connection between Bowley and Tubman, spoke during the press conference. In the Bible, Williams told the crowd, when a crowed heard that Jesus was of Nazareth, one of the disciples, Nathaniel, said, “Did anything good come out of Nazareth?” and Phillip succinctly and simply answered him, “Come and see.”

“I submit to you that when it comes to history,” Williams said, “we are a small, quaint community, but we don’t take a back seat to any city in South Carolina,” Williams said. “And when someone asks you, ‘What good has come out of Georgetown?’, tell them, ‘Come and see!’”

Hemingway said there are several events planned for the time the sculpture is in Georgetown, including:

— Aug. 1, 2023 – Arrival of “Journey to Freedom” monument with stops throughout the county (TBD) and ending at Joseph Hayne Rainey Park to be greeted by local officials;

— Aug. 5, 2023 – Unveiling of “Journey to Freedom” monument with special guests, sculptors who created the Harriet Tubman piece, Wesley and Odyssey Wofford, Ernstine Martin Wyatt, the three-times grandniece of Tubman, and author Dr. Kate Clifford Larson, who wrote “Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero;”

— Aug. 26, 2023 – Gullah Kinfolk Traveling Theater, musical production celebrating Gullah History and Heritage, TBD;

— Sept. 16, 2023 – “Harriet Tubman,” a one-woman show featuring Natalie Daise, actress and artist, Winyah Auditorium;

— Oct. 7, 2023 – Artisan Village – showcasing local, regional and Gullah Geechee artisans and vendors, Joseph Hayne Rainey Park, Front Street, Georgetown.

Hemingway said more events will be added to this list as they are organized.

The Georgetown County School District is also planning to take advantage of the Harriet Tubman sculpture being in the area. Superintendent Keith Price said the planning committee has worked hard to build very strategic and relevant topics for students throughout the school district. It mostly focuses on fourth grade, when students delve into the topics of slavery and abolition in Social Studies.

“Our students will have opportunities to learn about Harriet Tubman’s significance and her connection to our area, and what that means to them,” Price said. “To be able to come and see a sculpture in person is going to make a big difference and help them learn and retain the information that they discover about Harriet Tubman.”

Carol Addy, president of the Georgetown Business Association, said she and other business owners in the city are excited to celebrate Harriet Tubman’s legacy and the events surrounding it.

“We look forward to showcasing the City of Georgetown as the jewel that it is on the coast of South Carolina,” she said.

Mark A. Stevens, director of tourism development for the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce and South Carolina’s Hammock Coast, said he’s excited for the sculpture to arrive. The Tourism Management Commission, which oversees tourism marketing for Georgetown County, has provided $17,800 for marketing the Tubman event and will serve as an official sponsor of the event.

“We believe this will be another attraction for our visitors to the Hammock Coast,” Stevens said. “History is a draw for tourists, and I think our visitors will appreciate learning about Tubman’s ties to our area.”

For more information about the sculpture, volunteer opportunities, and to make a donation, visit Donations can also be made at:

To contact Marilyn Hemingway, email, or call 843-318-8644.

By Clayton Stairs / tourism manager for the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce and South Carolina’s Hammock Coast®

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