July 10, 2014

Schumer, Gillibrand, Maffei Announce Senate Passage of Bill To Create Harriet Tubman National Historical Parks

Legislation to Honor the Life of Harriet Tubman in Auburn Clears Senate, Now Heads to the House for a Vote

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Dan Maffei today announced Senate passage of legislation 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.  The bill also establishes the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Maryland.  Schumer and Gillibrand are sponsors of the Senate legislation, in conjunction with Senator Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski (both D-MD). Now the legislation awaits passage from the House of Representatives.

The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park and The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park Act, S. 247, would establish two National Historic 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 her 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.

“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.” 

“This is a huge victory for Auburn and all of Central New York and brings us one step closer to making the Harriet Tubman National Historical Parks Act a law,” said U.S. Representative Dan Maffei, who introduced companion legislation in the House last year. “Not only will a National Park in Auburn preserve Harriet Tubman’s legacy and educate future generations of Americans about her important role in our country’s history, it will grow our economy by creating approximately 70 new jobs and attracting millions of tourism dollars to our region. Now that the Senate has passed the Harriet Tubman National Historical Parks Act, I urge House leaders to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor for a vote so it can pass and the President can sign it 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.