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 Friday of legislation that will finally send approval of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Maryland and the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in New York to the President to be signed into law. The creation of these two national historical parks honors the life of Harriet Ross Tubman, the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. The official designation of the national historical parks is included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
“Harriet Tubman was a true American hero and patriot, for whom liberty and freedom were not just ideas. More than 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 (video). “This is a great day for the Eastern Shore and our country.”
“Today’s hard-fought bipartisan action to establish a Harriet Tubman National Historical Park on Maryland’s Eastern Shore is a fitting tribute to honor her lasting legacy in Maryland and to our nation that will inspire future generations of women and girls,” Senator Mikulski said. “Harriet Tubman was a courageous fighter and abolitionist who delivered scores of slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. She was tireless in her commitment to fight for those who could not fight for themselves.”
“Harriet Tubman was a true American hero, and this bill will finally allow us to honor and preserve her home in Auburn as a National Historic Park so that future generations may be inspired by her legacy and service. Born a slave, Harriet Tubman threw off her chains to forge a path of freedom for herself. But compelled by her commitment to justice, she returned again and again and again to the South to free countless others, earning the nickname ‘Moses’ for her exploits. This site in Auburn will serve as a monument to her bravery and compassion and to the freedom and equality that we cherish as a nation. I am pleased to announce that this long-awaited recognition has passed both the chambers in Congress and is now headed straight for the President’s desk,” said Senator Schumer. “Harriet Tubman 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 country.”
“Harriet Tubman risked her life to rescue others from slavery and oppression, and for that, she is one of American history’s greatest heroes,” said Senator Gillibrand, who toured Harriet Tubman’s home and the Home for the Aged that she established in the Auburn-Fleming area. “With this new National Historical Park designation, Harriet Tubman’s life and legacy will continue to live on, and her story will continue to inspire so many people for generations to come. She led countless others in the journey for freedom and equality, and I am pleased there will now be a national park in her honor, where people from across the country can reflect on her life and legacy.”
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 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.
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.
Harriet Tubman was born in Dorchester County, Md., 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:
- Upon enactment, the portion of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument that is owned and managed by the National Park Service will become the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park. This parcel 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.
- The bill authorizes the National Park Service to acquire, through deed transfer or through conservation easement on private land, seven non-contiguous parcels of land in Maryland that hold historical significance to the life of Harriet Tubman.
- The total acreage composition of these parcels is 775 acres in Talbot County, 2,200 in Caroline County, and 2,775 in Dorchester County (this includes the 480 acres that the National Park Service already owns).
- 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 Poplar Neck plantation, where Harriet Tubman escaped slavery in 1849.
- The bill clarifies that the existing federal lands owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, which are also part of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, will remain under the management of the USFWS and part of the national monument.
- In Auburn, N.Y., The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park would include important historical structures. 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.