Kerry James Marshall explains his decision to paint Harriet Tubman alongside her first husband John Tubman.
We think of Harriet Tubman
as a kind of mythic figure
within black history—
as a leader of the underground railroad,
taking slaves from slavery to freedom.
That's what we think about
when we think about Harriet Tubman.
We never think about Harriet Tubman
as a woman who was married to anybody.
Take those two things:
her role in black history
and her identity as a woman.
Those things can both be dealt with;
with the blackness of that figure
representing the larger sort of mythic implication,
and then the naming
of herself and the seeing of her
with a man who was a husband.
That becomes the kind of personal idea of Harriet Tubman.