WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both- D-MD) today praised Senate committee passage of legislation to create two national historical parks to honor the life of Harriet Ross Tubman, the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee voted to report the bill favorably for consideration by the full Senate.
Senator Cardin introduced the bill earlier this year along with Senators Mikulski and Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand (both D-NY). The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park and The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park Act, S. 247, will establish 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 commemorates the later years of her life where she was active in the women’s suffrage movement and in providing for the welfare of aged African Americans.
“This is a great day for those who want to honor the legacy of Harriet Tubman, a true American heroine and patriot, for whom liberty and freedom were not just ideas, but represented a real struggle for human rights,” said Senator Cardin. “She lived those principles and shared that freedom with hundreds of others. These two parks will make it possible for Marylanders, New Yorkers and all Americans to visit and trace her life’s work and remember her tremendous contribution to our nation’s history.”
“Harriet Tubman was a courageous fighter who delivered countless slaves to freedom on her Underground Railroad,” Senator Mikulski said. “She was tireless in her commitment to fight for those who could not fight themselves. As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of her passing, I am proud to support the creation of these parks to honor the legacy of Harriet Tubman.”
“This is another important step down the road to honoring Harriet Tubman, a true American hero, with a national park at her home in Auburn,” said Senator Schumer. “The hardworking men and women who have been keeping up the Tubman House in Auburn deserve to see their work come to fruition. I will keep pushing legislation that will provide a big boost to New York’s regional tourism industry as people from across the country flock to Auburn to visit the Harriet Tubman House.”
“Harriet Tubman is a remarkable American hero who continues to inspire me today,” said Senator Gillibrand, who toured Harriet Tubman’s home and the Home for the Aged that she established in Auburn, New York this August. “Her unwavering commitment to helping others while risking her own life in the long fight for equality has left an indelible legacy. This national park in Auburn would provide an important place where men and women of all backgrounds can come together and reflect on the significance of her life.”
Harriet Tubman was born in Dorchester County, Maryland, where she spent nearly 30 years as a slave. She escaped slavery in 1849, but returned to the Eastern Shore several times over the course of 10 years to lead hundreds of African Americans to freedom in the North. Known as “Moses” by African-American and white abolitionists, she reportedly never lost a “passenger” on the Underground Railroad.
In Maryland, The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park would include historically important landscapes in Dorchester, Caroline and Talbot counties that are evocative of the life of Harriet Tubman.
In Dorchester County, the parcels include close to 2,775 acres located within the established master plan boundaries of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, but are not currently owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These parcels are significant sites in Harriet Tubman’s life, including her likely birthplace, the Brodess Plantation parcel where she worked as a young girl; the Cook Plantation parcel where as a teenager she worked as a seamstress; and the Jacob Jackson parcel, which is believed to be the location of one of the first safe houses along the Underground Railroad.
The Harriet Tubman historic area also would include about 2,200 acres in Caroline County, which includes portions of the Poplar Neck plantation where Harriet Tubman escaped slavery in 1849. The 725 acres of viewshed across the Choptank River in Talbot County would also be included in the Park. These parcels are authorized to come under protection through conservation easements held by the private property owners.
In New York, The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park would include important historical structures in Auburn, New York. They include 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.
Senator Cardin worked with Republican members of the ENR Committee to provide a non-controversial offset. The offset regards WRDA funding and is similar to the offset amendment that was offered in December of the 112th Congress when the Chairman Bingaman and Ranking Member Murkowski made a unanimous consent request for final passage of the bill.