Nina Cooke John – Designer of Harriet Tubman Monument

Nina Cooke John – Designer of Harriet Tubman Monument


A statue of Christopher Columbus was removed from Washington Park in Newark, New Jersey, in June 2021. A monument of abolitionist Harriet Tubman will take its place. Nina Cooke John, a Jamaican designer, based in New York, will design the new monument. “Shadow of a Face” is the name of her design.

Nina is from Stony Hill in St. Andrew and a former Campion College student. Nina had ambitions of becoming a doctor while attending high school. As a result, she concentrated on disciplines such as arithmetic, physics, chemistry, and biology. Nina stopped attending art lessons in high school because students had to select what they wanted to pursue early on. During her last year, however, she decided to pursue a career as an architect. Accordingly, she enrolled in evening painting and ceramics lessons at an art school.

Nina’s Early Years

After leaving Jamaica, Nina attended City College in New York. One of her first instructors at the university urged her to move to Cornell, which she did. Nina immediately fell in love with architecture. She has since received a Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University and an MSc. in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University.

The creativity which Nina observed throughout Jamaica has served to inspire her career. That is, the art of people transforming everyday hardships and limitations into innovative solutions through multiple spheres of life.

Top Competitor Award

Cooke John topped four other finalists to design the Tubman monument. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced the result on June 17th after an open-call process that began last winter to select an artist and concept. Shadow of a Face will take the form of a circular, multi-sensory site in which visitors can connect at eye level with a monumental profile of Tubman.


In response to the announcement, Cooke John said, “My design creates a welcoming space for people to connect with Tubman as well as interact and reflect on their own liberation from whatever weight they might be carrying. This is a monument for the community and by the community. As a woman, a Black woman, and mother of three girls, I am delighted to bring my memorial for Harriet Tubman to life in Newark.”

Nina is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. She is the founding principal of Studio Cooke John Architecture and Design, a multidisciplinary design studio based in New York.

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