by Will Parson
February 27, 2020
Two pillars of abolitionism now stand at the Maryland State House in Annapolis. Cast in bronze and positioned on each side of the Old House of Delegates Chamber, statues of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass were unveiled in early February.
Tubman and Douglass were sculpted as they would have appeared at the time of emancipation in 1864, when they were both roughly in their mid-40s (neither’s exact birthday is known). And their striking physicality is evident from how the statues were installed—instead of pedestals, both rest on the carpet and stand as tall as they did in life.
Douglass, an imposing figure of over six feet, faces an open door as if expecting someone to join him. Tubman, not even five feet, looks toward the center of the chamber.
The effect is to compare the statues to each other, as well as to their surroundings—neither could have legally entered Maryland before the state approved emancipation, though Douglass visited in 1874.
Visitors to Maryland and the larger Bay region can trace the activists’ lives at multiple sites. Douglass’ home in Washington, D.C., is now a well-preserved national historic site where even his dumbbells and ice cream maker are on display. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway records Tubman’s biography—from her childhood to over a dozen dangerous return journeys to guide 70 slaves to freedom—in linear form along 125 miles of roads on the Eastern Shore.
Visitors to the State House can stand toe-to-toe and see how they measure up to the two larger-than-life figures of American history.