May 21, 2019
A new mural featuring a powerful image of Harriet Tubman has just been finished and is attracting attention from around the country, with some people moved to tears. On the side of the Harriet Tubman Museum & Educational Center (Stop #5 on the Tubman Byway road trip), the mural shows Tubman with her hand outstretched, beckoning the viewer to join her on a journey to freedom. The mural was painted by Michael Rosato, a muralist who lives in Dorchester County, Maryland, where Tubman was born and lived in slavery for more than 25 years. Rosato’s work is nationally known; his paintings are featured in major museum exhibits, stadiums, corporate offices, and private residences around the country.
A post featuring a photo of the mural and a little girl reaching out to touch Tubman’s hand (taken by local shopkeepers at Maiden Maryland), has gone viral on social media, with thousands of people moved, some to tears, by the powerful image. Major media outlets have picked up on the story. The photo even appeared on the Today Show.
In an interview with a viewer, Rosato talked about what he is trying to convey through this mural. “The inspiration comes from that moment when a slave has to make a decision to go. This incredibly strong and compassionate woman is about to offer that hand for that freedom. And I thought, how do I capture that moment where it all happens, when the risk was taken to run from the slave owner, to a woman taking a risk to bring you through to the other side. This is that special moment when the hand is being offered. She has to be compassionate, but has to assert a certain authority.”
The mural was commissioned by the Dorchester Center for the Arts for the 50th Anniversary of the Maryland State Arts Council. It is a partnership project between Dorchester Center for the Arts, Alpha Genesis CDC, The Maryland State Arts Council, and the Harriet Tubman Organization, with additional support from Downtown Cambridge. As public art it represents a gift to the people of Cambridge, Dorchester County, and beyond.
Rosato also painted Tubman as part of a mural celebrating local African-American heritage; that mural is located at the corner of Maryland Avenue and Route 50 in Cambridge. His murals of other local topics are also located around Dorchester County as part of the Chesapeake Country Mural Trail. A new audio guide cell phone app featuring this new mural and other Rosato mural is being released in early June. Learn more about the audio guide.
The Tubman Museum & Educational Center, located at 424 Race Street in Cambridge, MD, is run completely by dedicated volunteers who have been working hard to share Tubman’s legacy for decades. The museum includes exhibits about Tubman and the Underground Railroad. Hours are 12-3pm Tuesday through Friday, and 12-4pm on Saturdays. For more information, call the museum at 410-228-0401. The museum is also the site of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Conference, coming up May 31-June 1, 2019.