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GMShay + Harriet Tubman Monument

For the past few weeks, an exciting project has been brewing for Gunn Meyerhoff Shay and we could not be more excited to share.

The Tabernacle Baptist Church in Beaufort, South Carolina, has launched a campaign to honor Harriet Tubman for her services during the Civil War.  Harriet was most certainly an amazing abolitionist and humanitarian.  The Tabernacle Baptist Church wants to honor her specific efforts during the Combahee Raid on June 2, 1863, where Harriet helped plan and lead a Union raid that freed over 700 slaves without casualty.  A monument is proposed to sit adjacent to the Tabernacle Baptist Church on Craven Street, and Gunn Meyerhoff Shay is excited to be on the team.

The project was introduced to Gunn Meyerhoff Shay through my interest in African art.  A few days after Christmas, my family and I decided to drive up to Beaufort to see what it was all about.  As we walked in and out of the quaint Beaufort stores within the main strip of Bay Street, we stumbled across Lybenson’s Gallery and Studio. As I roamed the gallery filled with beautiful African artifacts from all over the world, I began speaking with whom I know now to be Reverend Kenneth Hodges – the owner of the store.  As the conversation progressed, Reverend Hodges revealed the story behind the beautiful maquette that sits at the entrance of the gallery.

Two weeks ago, Pat and I ventured an hour north of Savannah to Beaufort, South Carolina to meet with Reverend Kenneth Hodges and experience the site for ourselves.  The site sits between two southern style homes – a part of the larger campus owned by the Tabernacle Baptist Church.  The Tabernacle Church congregation was formed by black members of Beaufort Baptist Church in 1861.  The property was not purchased until 1867, and the church was not dedicated until 1894.  The Tabernacle Church today is absolutely stunning.  It is wrapped with beautiful stain glass windows and its bright red roof is more vibrant than ever.  Craven Street is frequented by visitors from all over, and is along the route of walking tours, bus tours, and carriage tours.

Next to the church is the maquette and burial site of Robert Smalls, whom we learned was extremely influential in the abolishment of slavery within the South.  Born as a slave in 1839, Robert Smalls lived to serve as a Congressman of the United States.  What Pat and I were most impressed with was the story of how Robert Smalls commandeered a Confederate gunboat to Union forces.

It was a beautiful day as we walked around the church campus, accompanied by the soundtrack of horse drawn carriages click-clacking on the pavement and crepe myrtles blowing in the wind.

After walking on the site, Pat and I visited Lybenson’s gallery to see the maquette.  We discovered that Reverend Hodges is an avid photographer and artist himself, and were able to speak with him about some of the spectacular photos hanging in the gallery; some of which included shots of Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Dizzy Gillespie, and Hank Gehring.

The maquette is displayed at the front of LyBenson’s gallery, which is located at 211 Charles Street, Beaufort, SC.  Ed Dwight, a sculptor and historian based out of Denver, CO, was the sculptor behind the beautiful maquette.  Interestingly enough, Ed was also the first African American to be trained as an astronaut.  Ed has sculpted 128 memorials of African American heroes including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jim Crow, and Rosa Parks.

Gunn Meyerhoff Shay is honored to be a part of this monumental moment in African American history.


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