Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument

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“The Harriet Tubman National Monument is important for our nation and for Maryland in particular. It is a reminder of our long quest for freedom. This monument preserves an important piece of the past, while also encouraging a bright economic future based on tourism and local business development. This is one of the opportunities for our nation to do good and do well,” Hilary O. Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau Director and Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy

Harriet Tubman is revered by many as a freedom seeker and leader of the Underground Railroad. Although Harriet Tubman is known widely, no federal commemorative site had ever before been established in her honor, despite the magnitude of her contributions and her national and international stature.

Harriet Tubman is an American hero. She was born enslaved in Dorchester County, Maryland in 1822, l She escaped in 1849 and led many others to freedom on the Underground Railroad at great personal risk. Tubman also served as a nurse and a spy for the Union during the Civil War.

Harriet Tubman fought tirelessly for the rights of enslaved people, for the rights of women, and for the rights of all. She was a leader in the struggle for civil rights who was forever motivated by her love of family and community and by her deep and abiding faith before her death on March 10, 1913 in Auburn, New York.

It was in the flat, open fields, marsh, and thick woodlands of Dorchester County that Tubman became physically and spiritually strong. Many of the places in which she grew up and worked still remain. This is the landscape where free African Americans and the enslaved led a clandestine movement of people out of slavery towards the North Star of freedom. These sites were places where enslaved and free African Americans intermingled. Moreover, these sites fostered an environment that enabled free individuals to provide aid and guidance to those enslaved who were seeking freedom.

This landscape, including the towns, roads, and paths within it, and its critical waterways, was the means for communication and the path to freedom. The Underground Railroad was everywhere within it.

This national monument is an important step to a greater effort of honoring the contributions of women and African Americans to our history. Of the 80,000 properties on the National Register of Historic Places, only 3 percent recognize the contributions and convey the stories of minorities and women.

The 11,750-acre national monument is includes sites near Cambridge, Maryland in Dorchester County that were significant in Tubman’s life. A large proportion of the designated area is included within Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and is managed cooperatively between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service. It was designated on March 25, 2013.

Public Input

The National Park Service (NPS) completed a Special Resource Study (SRS) mandated by Congress “concerning the preservation and public use of sites associated with Harriet Tubman” in 2008.

Senators Cardin and Mikulski introduced legislation (S.247) in the 111th and 112th sessions of Congress to establish national historical parks in Maryland and New York. However, while that legislation passed the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, it never received a vote by the full Senate and the House.

On July 11, 2012, more than 80 people attended a public meeting held in Cambridge, Maryland to share their thoughts and support for establishment of a National Park System unit on Maryland’s Eastern Shore honoring Tubman.

The State of Maryland, both state senators, the Maryland Office of Tourism Development, county governments, and local residents all supported the monument designation.

The national monument was incorporated into the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park by Congress on December 19, 2014.