WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both- D-Md.), along with Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand (Both D-NY), praised Senate approval late Wednesday of legislation (S. 247) to create two national historical parks to honor the life of Harriet Ross Tubman, the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. Early in the 113th Congress, the senators introduced the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park and The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park Act, which will establish one National Historical Park in Maryland and one in New York. The bill will now be considered by the House of Representatives where companion legislation (H.R. 664) sponsored by Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY) has garnered 101 cosponsors.
“Harriet Tubman was a true American heroine and patriot, for whom liberty and freedom were not just ideas, but represented a real struggle for human rights. One hundred years after her death, we are properly honoring the legacy of this remarkable woman’s life, work, and contributions to our nation’s history,” said Senator Cardin.
“Harriet Tubman was a courageous fighter who delivered scores of slaves to freedom in the Underground Railroad,” Senator Mikulski said. “She was tireless in her commitment to fight for those who could not fight for themselves. A Harriet Tubman National Historical Park is a fitting tribute to honor her lasting legacy for Maryland and our nation while inspiring future generations of women and girls.”
“Harriet Tubman, who called Auburn her home, is a pioneer and a true American hero who deserves to be honored for her bravery, service to the nation and compassion,” said Senator Schumer. “Born a slave, she rose above terror and degradation to become an iconographic liberator of slaves as she guided them from subjugation to freedom along the Underground Railroad. She has left an indelible mark on America, and this National Park will be a true testament to her life’s work – and all that is best about our nation. Many men and women have worked for years to maintain the Tubman House in Auburn, and tell the amazing story of her life, and I am glad to see their hard work finally come to fruition.”
“Harriet Tubman is a remarkable American hero who continues to inspire people today,” said Senator Gillibrand, who toured Harriet Tubman’s home and the Home for the Aged that she established in Auburn. “Her unwavering commitment to helping others while risking her own life in the long fight for equality has left an indelible legacy. This National Historic 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.”
The National Historical Park in New York will be located in Auburn and commemorates the later years of Tubman’s life where she was active in the women’s suffrage movement and established a rest home that provided for the welfare of aged African Americans. 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.
In 2013, President Barack Obama established the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Dorchester County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Complementary to the creation of the national historical parks, the National Monument underscores the historical significance of the USFWS lands (Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge) and Park Service lands where Tubman worked as a slave and guided freedomseekers on the Underground Railroad on the Eastern Shore. The national historical park and national monument designations will help increase tourism, create jobs and strengthen Talbot, Caroline and Dorchester Counties’ local economies. For example, in 2010, tourism represented one-fifth of Dorchester County’s employment, generating more than $132 million for the local economy.
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.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park would include historically important landscapes including:
- Close to 2,775 acres in Dorchester County, Maryland that are 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.
- In Caroline County, Maryland, about 2,200 acres, including 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.