Recently revealed Harriet Tubman statue at Banneker-Douglass Museum defaced in Annapolis

A Harriet Tubman statue recently lent to an Annapolis museum by a Baltimore gallery was defaced Saturday, museum officials announced in a news release.

“Araminta with Rifle and Vévé” was transported in September from the Goya Contemporary Gallery in Baltimore to the front of the Banneker-Douglass Museum, the State of Maryland’s official museum of African American heritage. According to the release, staff members over the weekend noticed that the vévé, a beaded staff the Tubman figure held in its left hand, was missing and notified law enforcement immediately. Tubman was born Araminta Ross in Dorchester County.


“The theft of culturally significant objects denies other people the joyful, contemplative, or educational experience of engaging with that artwork and in this particular case, attempts to take from the power of Harriet Tubman,” Amy Raehse, Goya Contemporary Gallery executive director, said Wednesday in a message to the Capital.

The Annapolis museum will be closed while the theft is investigated. City police officials were not immediately available to comment.


“We’re saddened that this has occurred,” said Chanel Johnson, the museum’s executive director, in the news release. “If anyone has any information connected to the theft, please let us know. We are asking for the community’s assistance in this effort. We are praying for the return of the vévé to restore the statue to its original state.”

According to the Baltimore gallery’s website, the 2017 statue is a 10-foot-tall piece composed of found objects, blown glass, and mixed media appliqués. It depicts the famed hero of the Underground Railroad, who was born into slavery 200 years ago on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, carrying a beaded rifle and staff. The rifle is adorned with flowers and the vévé features two birds.

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In addition to celebrating Tubman’s bicentennial — Gov. Larry Hogan declared 2022 “The Year of Harriet Tubman”— the Banneker-Douglass Museum brought the statue to Annapolis as part of its latest exhibit, “The Radical Voice of Blackness Speaks of Resistance and Joy.” Featuring the work of 17 Maryland-based Black artists, including Annapolis artist Tawny Chatmon, the collection “explores America’s fraught history of systemic racism with thought-provoking narratives while celebrating the resiliency of a people who have persevered despite social and political devices to suppress them,” according to an August news release.

“If we look to Harriet’s extraordinary life story, crimes committed against her did not mute her message or her potency,” Raehse said, “and we do hope that the recovery of the object will restore the sculpture of Tubman to her original splendor.”

Raehse added that the sculptor, Baltimore native and MacArthur Fellow Joyce Scott, has offered to recreate the stolen staff if it is not found.

“Ignorant and destructive behavior will never thwart the truth-telling voice of the arts,” Raehse said.

As of Wednesday, a timeline for when the replacement would be made had not been established.

If anyone has any information regarding the theft, please contact the Banneker-Douglass Museum via email at or via phone at (410) 216-6180.


“The Radical Voice of Blackness Speaks of Resistance and Joy” can be viewed during operating hours through Sept. 30, 2023.