Harriet Tubman's Boston: 1999

The following article is part of a series exploring Harriet Tubman's deep connections to Boston, highlighting several key moments, people, and places that illustrate her long relationship with the city and its community. To learn more, visit Harriet Tubman's Boston.

Harriet Tubman Memorial Step on Board of her guiding a group of people.
"Step on Board," Harriet Tubman Memorial

NPS Photo/McNabb

"Death or Liberty."

Harriet Tubman Memorial, Columbus Ave. and Pembroke St.

Having achieved her own freedom from slavery, Tubman dedicated her life to helping others secure their own liberation. She continued to work for the benefit of others until her death in 1913. Bostonians held a memorial service for her at the Charles Street A.M.E. Church on Beacon Hill with speeches by abolitionist Franklin B. Sanborn, Julia Henson of the Harriet Tubman House, and Ella A. Gleason of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.1

In 1999, to honor Tubman's memory and her deep connections to the city, Bostonians dedicated Step On Board, a high relief sculpture featuring Tubman leading a small group of people to freedom. Created by Fern Cunningham, the memorial stands in Harriet Tubman Park in the South End and is the first statue on city-owned property to honor a woman.2

Inscribed on the back of the memorial is one of Tubman's most powerful and quoted principles:

There are two things I've got a right to, and these are death or liberty. One or another I mean to have. No one will take me back alive. — Harriet Tubman


1. Boston Evening Transcript, March 31, 1913, 11.

2. "Harriet Tubman Park," accessed February, 2022,

Boston African American National Historic Site

Last updated: June 8, 2022