WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-MD) today praised President Barack Obama for issuing a proclamation designating the establishment of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Dorchester County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. This new National Monument will memorialize the tremendous contributions Harriet Tubman made to American history. The establishment of the National Monument will preserve the unique landscape associated with her life on the Eastern Shore and her legacy as the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad.
The National Monument designation also will serve as an intermediate step to fulfilling the greater vision of establishing two national historical parks to honor Tubman. On February 7, Senator Cardin along with Senators Mikulski and Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (both D-NY) introduced The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park and The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park Act, S. 247, as a way to honor her by establishing two National Historic Parks, one in Maryland and one in New York.
The National Historical Park in Maryland will trace Tubman’s early life on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where she was born and later escaped from slavery to become one of the leaders on the Underground Railroad. The National Historical Park in New York will be located in Auburn and will focus on her later years where she was active in the women’s suffrage movement and in providing for the welfare of aged African Americans.
“A National Monument designation commemorating the extraordinary life of Harriet Tubman is an important step in the process of establishing National Historic Parks to honor her,” said Senator Cardin, who authored S. 247 to create the two National Historical Parks in her honor. “Harriet Tubman was an iconic figure in our nation’s history, and as commemorate the 100th anniversary of her death this year, this designation is an important step in honoring this true American heroine. I am going to continue to work hard in Congress to pass legislation to establish the two National Historical Parks, and today’s action from the President will help us achieve our goal of fully honoring her legacy.”
“Harriet Tubman was a courageous fighter who delivered countless slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad,” Senator Mikulski said. “She was tireless in her commitment to fight for those who could not fight themselves. Designating a national monument here on Maryland’s Eastern Shore is an important step as we move towards the establishment of National Historic Parks to commemorate her heroic works.”
The new National Monument will be located on a historically significant 480-acre property. Located within the National Monument are portions of Stewart’s Canal, a manmade waterway Harriet Tubman’s father, Ben Ross, helped build as a slave. The National Monument also contains the home site of Jacob Jackson, a free black man who used coded letters to help Tubman communicate with family and others and who also offered up his house as one of the first safe houses along the Underground Railroad leading out of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The Conservation Fund donated the 480-acre property, adjacent to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, to the National Park Service for the purposes of establishing the National Monument.
Tubman was born a slave in Dorchester County in 1822, escaping in 1849 and continuously risking her life to lead many others to freedom on the Underground Railroad. She also served as a nurse and a spy for the Union during the Civil War. She later became active in the women’s suffrage movement and created a home “for aged and indigent colored people” before her death on March 10, 1913 in Auburn, New York.
The national monument designation will help increase tourism, create jobs and strengthen Dorchester County’s local economy. In 2010, tourism represented one-fifth of Dorchester County’s employment, generating more than $132 million for the local economy.