What Is A Harriet Tubman Statue Doing At The CIA? 3 Things To Know

What Is A Harriet Tubman Statue Doing At The CIA? 3 Things To Know


 Harriet Tubman statue at CIA headquarters, screenshot from NBC video

Harriet Tubman was a freedom fighter who helped hundreds of slaves escape. She was also a spy who gathered intelligence for the Union Army.

In 2022, the CIA erected a statue depicting Tubman at its headquarters in Langley, Va.

Here are three things to know.

1. Tubman, the spy or intelligence collector

Tubman was one of the conductors on the Underground Railroad, which was a network of clandestine routes and safe houses established in the U.S. during the early- to the mid-19th century. The Underground Railroad was used by slaves to flee into free states and Canada.

During the Civil War, Tubman became the first woman to plan and lead a U.S. Army expedition. She was in her 40s. Tubman would go behind enemy lines in South Carolina dressed as a slave to gather intelligence, The Washington Post reported.

Her intel helped the Union Army win key battles and her efforts earned Tubman spots in the Military Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame and the International Spy Museum.

“What she did was an example of intelligence work, going behind enemy lines, using safe houses and signals intelligence to get people to freedom,” Robert Beyer, director of the CIA’s museum, told CNBC.

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Beyer pointed out Tubman wasn’t a true “spy” but an “intelligence collector.”

2. The statue of Tubman

In the statue, which depicts Tubman when she was younger, the activist holds a lantern in her raised right arm, symbolically lighting the path to freedom, The Washington Post reported. Her left arm reaches back as if to warn her “passengers” on the Underground Railroad to remain still.

CIA officers who studied Tubman in a leadership class suggested the statue, CNBC reported.

The bronze statue joined two others on the CIA campus. One depicts Nathan Hale, an American spy killed by the British during the Revolutionary War. The other is of William J. Donovan, considered the “founding father” of the CIA.

3. CIA, not Black friendly

While Tubman aided intelligence efforts in the 1800s, the CIA, which was founded on Sept. 18, 1947, worked to destroy Black activists, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Black Power movement.

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the CIA forced Black Americans to spy on members of the Black Panther Party, The New York Times reported. The agency not only wanted information on the group’s activities but was looking for ways to destroy the Party.

The agency also plotted to destroy Black communities by distributing drugs in inner city neighborhoods.

On top of this, the agency has never been known for its diversity.

Even today, the CIA, remains dominated by white males with Ivy League degrees. A report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence found the percentage of minorities in the intelligence community’s civilian workforce barely increased to 27 percent from 26.5 percent in fiscal year 2019. That year, just 12.3 percent of its employees identified as African American. And the higher the rank, the fewer Black people are represented.

 Harriet Tubman statue at CIA headquarters, screenshot from NBC video