CAMBRIDGE, Md. — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, U.S. Representative Andy Harris, Cambridge Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley, senior officials from the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as descendants of Harriet Ross Tubman, gathered Saturday at the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center in Cambridge to celebrate the creation of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park. The park will trace Tubman’s early life on the Eastern Shore, where she was born and later escaped from slavery to become one of the leaders on the Underground Railroad. Descendants of Harriet Ross Tubman’s at the event included Victoria Ross, the oldest living Ross descendant in Maryland, Patricia Ross Hawkins, who spoke on behalf of the family, and more than a half-dozen other family members.
“This is a great day for the Eastern Shore and our country, as we have the occasion to honor an iconic figure in our nation’s history and do so in a deeply beautiful and symbolic place to visit,” said Senator Cardin. “There are few greater examples of bravery, valor and sacrifice about which to teach our future generations, so it is fitting that Harriet Tubman will become the first individual woman to have a national historical park named in her honor.”
“I can’t think of a better person to celebrate during Black History Month than Maryland’s own Harriet Tubman,” said Congressman Harris. “The creation of this national park in honor of Ms. Tubman is a true testament to her heroic fight for justice and equality and will tell her brave story to future generations for years to come.”
“For Harriet Tubman, the Eastern Shore is home. Her remarkable story of liberation speaks of skills born of hardship, her love of family, her strength of spirit, all of which have their roots here,” said Michael Caldwell, Regional Director of the National Park Service. “The establishment of the National Historical Park raises Tubman’s story to the level of recognition befitting one of our nation’s heroes; a woman who was internationally renowned. The National Park Service is eager to continue our work with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the State of Maryland, local officials and partners to make Tubman’s extraordinary story better known and understood throughout the nation.”
“The legislation to create a National Historical Park honoring Harriet Tubman represents a landmark agreement between our Eastern Shore communities and the federal government,” said Victoria Jackson-Stanley, Mayor of Cambridge. “This partnership will educate the public about the historical significance of the Underground Railroad and trace Harriet Tubman’s early life, deepening our local cultural resources and generating new economic activity by drawing thousands of visitors each year.”
Recent legislation honoring Tubman also established a national historical park in Auburn, N.Y., to commemorate the later years of Tubman’s life when she was active in the women’s suffrage movement and in providing for the welfare of aged African Americans. Joining the event in Cambridge was Rev. Michael King of the AME Zion Church, of which Harriet Tubman was a member; since her death in 1913, the AME Zion Church has been the guardian of the Tubman home in New York. In 2013, President Barack Obama established the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Dorchester County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, setting the stage for National Historical Park designation.
Together, the national historical park and monument will preserve the unique landscape associated with Harriet Tubman’s life on the Eastern Shore and her legacy as the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. The park is also expected to 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. Also participating in the celebration of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park were Suzanne Baird, Manager of the Blackwater Refuge, and Susan Meredith, owner of the Bucktown Village Store and a local landowner.