U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Dan Maffei today announced that a provision to establish the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn as a National Historical Park, which would also encompass the Tubman Home for the Aged, the Thompson Memorial AME Zion Church and Rectory, is included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that was unveiled today. The provision also establishes the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Maryland. Schumer, Gillibrand and Maffei said that the House could vote on the NDAA as early as this Thursday and the Senate will then vote on the same bill next week. If the bill passes both houses, the request for this recognition will head to the President’s desk for his signature. Schumer, Gillibrand and Maffei are urging their colleagues in both the House and Senate to vote for the bill and make this long-awaited National Historical Park a reality.
The provision included in the NDAA would establish two National Historical Parks, one in New York and one in Maryland. The National Historical Park in New York would be located in Auburn and commemorates the later years of Harriet Tubman’s life where she was active in the women’s suffrage movement and in providing for the welfare of aged African Americans. The National Historical Park in Maryland would 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.
“This is a momentous milestone in our quest to make the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn a National Historical Park. The inclusion of this provision in the national defense authorization bill means that we are on the precipice of finally making this a reality,” said Senator Schumer. “All we need now is for this bill to pass both the House and the Senate, and then the request heads straight to the President’s desk. I am urging my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both houses of Congress to vote for this bill and help us secure the recognition that Harriet Tubman, and those who have worked for years to maintain the Tubman House in Auburn, deserve. 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. 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.”
“Harriet Tubman is a remarkable American hero who continues to inspire so many 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 freedom and 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.”
“This provision in the National Defense Authorization Act is a huge victory for Auburn and all of Central New York and brings us even closer to sending the bipartisan Harriet Tubman National Historical Parks Act to the President’s desk,” said U.S. Representative Dan Maffei, who introduced the legislation in the House in 2013. “The creation of a National Park in Auburn will preserve Harriet Tubman’s remarkable legacy and educate future generations of Americans about her important role in our country’s history, and it will grow our local economy by creating new jobs and attracting millions of tourism dollars to our region. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to stand with us in passing the Harriet Tubman National Historical Parks Act so that the President can sign this important legislation into law.”
The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park would include several important historical structures in Auburn. They include Tubman’s home, the Home for the Aged she established, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church, and the Fort Hill Cemetery where she is buried.
The Cayuga County Office of Tourism estimates approximately 70 new jobs would be supported and tourism spending in Cayuga would increase by $3.12 million annually as a result of the legislation.
The tourism industry currently provides $355.73 annual tax relief for every Cayuga County household. Relief would increase to $370 per household as a result of additional spending resulting from the legislation. Annual attendance would increase by an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 visitors per year as a result of the legislation, based on data from similar national parks.
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 landscape in Dorchester, Caroline and Talbot counties that are evocative of the life of Harriet Tubman.