Gov. Martin O’Malley on Tuesday announced the state has received an $8.5 million federal grant to build the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Dorchester County, the final grant needed to create the $21 million project.
Construction will support as many as 225 local jobs over the course of a year, the O’Malley administration said. Harriet Tubman State Park, where the center will be located, will directly support 10 full-time employees.
“The visitor center is a step forward in promoting Maryland’s critical role in the fight for freedom, in recognizing the efforts of a remarkable Marylander, and for creating new jobs on the Eastern Shore,” O’Malley, a Democrat, said in a statement after announcing the grant in Cambridge. “Together, we can educate and share the story of how Tubman and those like her changed the course of American history, bending the arc toward justice.”
The visitor center will be about 10 miles south of Cambridge.
The center is part of an effort to create a scenic byway and national historical park honoring Tubman, who led slaves to freedom during the Civil War and was born on the Eastern Shore. The visitor center is scheduled to be completed in 2013, 100 years after Tubman’s death.
Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., has introduced legislation to create a national historic park on the Eastern Shore in Tubman’s name. It would include lands in Dorchester, Caroline and Talbot counties.
The center will include an exhibit on Tubman’s birthplace and her early life in Dorchester County, as well as her efforts to free slaves. It also will include information about the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, which extends from Maryland to Ontario, Canada.
“We’re looking forward to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Center, which will add to the great tourism and culture of Dorchester County,” said Donald Pinder, president of the Harriet Tubman Organization. “The story of Harriet Tubman is an international story about freedom, which is one of the most important words in our vocabulary right now.”