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Posted on: December 4, 2023

'Journey to Freedom' sculptor to make piece for Georgetown Library

A rendering of the proposed sculpture features Tubman and her young nephew, she gesturing upward

Wesley Wofford, the artist behind the Harriet Tubman sculpture that recently drew droves of visitors to Georgetown’s Rainey Park, is making a new Tubman sculpture that will be on permanent display at the Georgetown Library. 

The Friends of the Georgetown Library have commissioned a piece that will be called “Whispers of My Ancestor,” and are raising money to help pay for the piece. It will feature Tubman and her great-nephew James A. Bowley. 

They hope to raise $40,000. If they reach their goal, the bronze sculpture will be installed — with appropriate stand and lighting — in the newly renovated library near the entrance to the children’s reading area. The sculpture will be anchored so that it can be touched and enjoyed by young readers.

In addition to the sculpture, there will be an etched-on-bronze copy of a letter written in 1868 by Bowley to his Aunt Harriet in which he writes “... I with my parents were one of your first passengers from the house of bondage.”

Bowley was born into enslavement in Maryland in 1844 and at the age of 6 was among the first Tubman helped to emancipate along the Underground Railroad, along with his mother and sister. While the rest of his family continued on to safety in Canada, Tubman kept Bowley with her in Philadelphia for three years so that he could gain an education. He would go on to serve in the Union Navy, move to Georgetown in 1867
 
 to work with the Freedmen’s Bureau as a teacher educating freed blacks, become the Georgetown School Commissioner, serve in the S.C. House of Representatives, serve on the Board of Trustees for the University of South Carolina, and start a local newspaper.  

Bowley’s remarkable story and achievements are a direct result of the influence and gift of education that he received from his Great Aunt Harriet. 

The sculpture depicts Tubman helping a young Bowley up a set of stairs, gesturing upward, toward a promising future. Speaking of his vision for the sculpture, Wofford said “It speaks of the power of building on the foundations of those that came before us and the long-term effects of nurturing education to uplift the next generation.”

Friends of the Georgetown Library President Bob Willey said the group is “exciting about bringing Harriet and James back to Georgetown.” But with just under $1,000 raised as of Dec. 1, they have a long way to go before the sculpture is fully funded. 

Donations of any amount can be made online at myfogl.org/whisperssponsorship, or checks payable to the Friends of the Georgetown Library can be sent to the Library, P.O. Box 421270, Georgetown, SC 20442-4200. The Friends group is registered as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, so contributions are tax-deductible.

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