Department of Cultural Affairs NYCulture City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs NYCulture City of New York

Percent for Art

   Alison Saar

Swing Low, Cast Bronze, 2007


Swing Low

Completion Date:



Cast bronze


13' H x 8' W x 11'L


Harriet Tubman Plaza


St. Nicholas Avenue, West 122nd Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, Manhattan


URS Corporation and Quennell, Rothchild and Partners

Sponsor Agency:

Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of Transportation

Design Agency:

Department of Design and Construction

2004 Excellence in Design, Art Commission of the City of New York

Harriet Tubman is shown with the force of a locomotive coming on full steam with the ruffle of her petticoat acting as a cattle guard to push all resistance aside. Artist Alison Saar designed stylized portraits of "anonymous passengers" of the Underground Railroad in Tubman's skirt, some of which were inspired by West African "passport masks."  Around the granite base of the monument are bronze tiles alternately depicting events in Tubman's life and traditional quilting patterns. Trailing behind Tubman's skirt are roots which symbolize the pulling up of roots by the slaves and all they had to leave behind and Tubman's uprooting of the slavery system itself.

About the Artist...
Alison Saar was born in 1956 in Los Angeles, California. She studied art and art history at Scripps College and received an MFA from the Otis Art Institute. She has been awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and two National Endowment Fellowships. Her art is represented in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Whitney Museum of American Art. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.

Artist Quote...
"I wanted to depict Harriet Tubman not so much as a conductor of the Underground Railroad, but as an unstoppable locomotive that continued to work towards improving the lives of slaves and freed slaves for most of her 91 years of life."