The story of Harriet Tubman is a historic one and is being commemorated by the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia. In a recent unveiling, the bronze statue shows the hero holding a lantern and carrying a pistol in a belt.
CIA officers learned more about Tubman in a leadership class and how she spied for the Union Army during the Civil War. It was there that the idea for the sculpture was born.
Robert Beyer, the director of the CIA’s museum, stated: “What she did was an example of intelligence work, going behind enemy lines, using safe houses and signals intelligence to get people to freedom.” She was also selfless and courageous, Beyer noted. “These are all traits we want our officers to embody.”
The statue was also a step toward showcasing some much needed diversity. The agency is still mostly white and has trouble recruiting Black folks and people of color. A report shows that in 2019, only 12.3% of the intelligence community’s identified as Black.
However, minorities are even less visible when it comes to senior ranks of the intelligence services. There is more representation in the federal government, where Black people and people of color represent 36 percent of the workforce.
A spokesperson told NBC News that in 2021, promotions for top-ranking positions for the senior intelligence service were the most diverse in the CIA’s history. Marginalized groups held about 27 percent of the positions. A statue of Harriet Tubman won’t make up for the obvious work that needs to be done.
However, discussions are finally being had about hiring practices which is crucial. CIA Director William Burns told NBC News in a statement: “For all of us, this statue will not only remind us of Tubman’s story. It will inspire us to live by her values.”