February is Black History Month, a time to honor the important contributions made throughout our nation’s history by African Americans. This year, I want to pay special tribute to Harriet Ross Tubman, a Marylander who was a leader of the anti-slavery resistance network known as the Underground Railroad.
Born Araminta Ross into slavery around 1820 in Dorchester County, Maryland, Harriet Tubman escaped to freedom in 1849. Determined to help others escape from slavery, she returned 19 times over the next decade to Dorchester and Caroline counties where she led more than 300 slaves north to freedom.
Known as “Moses” by African-American and white abolitionists, Tubman once proudly told Frederick Douglass that in all of her journeys she “never lost a single passenger.” She was so effective that in 1856 there was a $40,000 reward offered for her capture in the South.
Harriet Tubman was a true American patriot, for whom liberty and freedom were not just concepts. She lived those principles and shared that freedom with hundreds of others.
I have introduced legislation, S. 247, which would establish two national historical parks, one in Maryland and one in New York, to honor her legacy. My bill has passed a Senate panel and I am hopeful that the full Senate will pass it soon.
In Maryland, The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park will trace her life on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where she was born and escaped from slavery. It will include historically important landscapes in Dorchester, Caroline and Talbot counties.
The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in New York will be located in Auburn and will focus on her later years where she was active in the suffrage movement and in providing for the care of elderly African Americans. It will include important historical structures in Auburn, New York, such as Tubman’s home, the Home for the Aged that she established, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church, and the Fort Hill Cemetery, where she is buried.
Harriet Tubman’s legacy is an essential part of the story of America’s evolution from a slave-holding nation into one that recognizes the human rights of African Americans. These two national parks will help ensure that visitors from across the nation can learn about and celebrate her life’s work.