Monday, July 23, 2012
Maryland Requests Tubman Monument Designation
Cambridge, MD─ Governor Martin O'Malley, Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, and Congressman Andy Harris requested today the establishment of a national monument to recognize the tremendous contributions of Harriet Tubman and preserve the unique landscape associated with her life on Maryland's Eastern Shore and the Underground Railroad.
"Federal recognition of Harriet Tubman, one of our nation's great freedom and equal rights heroes, is long overdue," said Governor O'Malley. "A national monument designation will further our commitment to share her courageous life story and legacy of justice, and protect the rural landscape of her birthplace on Maryland's Eastern Shore."
"A national monument designation commemorating the extraordinary life of Harriet Tubman is an important step in the process of establishing National Historic Parks to honor her," said Senator Cardin. "Tubman was an iconic figure in our nation's history, and I think it's a good idea to move ahead with the monument designation now, while we continue to work in Congress for legislation to authorize the establishment of the two national parks - one in Maryland and one in New York - to commemorate one of America's greatest heroes."
"Harriet Tubman was a courageous fighter who delivered scores of slaves to freedom on her Underground Railroad," said Senator Mikulski, recipient of the 2012 Harriet Tubman Lifetime Achievement Award. "She was tireless in her commitment to fight for those who could not fight themselves. Designating a national monument here on Maryland's Eastern Shore is an important step as we move toward the establishment of National Historic Parks to commemorate her heroic works."
"Harriet Tubman, herself a former-slave who conducted the Underground Railroad, courageously led the fight against slavery," said Congressman Harris. "I am proud to support an American hero like Tubman. By our request to designate a national monument, we can honor and preserve her legacy."
Tubman was born a slave in Dorchester County in 1822, escaping in 1849 and continuously risking her life to lead many others to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Tubman also served as a nurse and a spy for the Union during the Civil War. She later became active in the women's suffrage movement and created a home "for aged and indigent colored people" before her death on March 10, 1913 in Auburn, New York.
On July 11, 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.
"Harriet Tubman gave enslaved people and all people the hope of fighting injustices through her work on the Underground Railroad. And now it is time to reward her for her bravery and humanitarian work," said Donald Pinder, President of the Harriet Tubman Organization.
"The designation of the monument is vitally important to the tourism industry of the Eastern Shore," said Susan Meredith, co-owner of Blackwater Paddle and Pedal. "Having a National Park Service unit here means more visitors, more jobs and a better environment to grow businesses in our communities."
In 2008, the National Park Service (NPS) completed a study assessing the sites and resourcesassociated with Tubman. Senators Cardin and Mikulski, along with their New York colleagues introduced legislation (S.247) to establish national historical parks in Maryland and New York. The bill was passed by the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee; however it remains unclear when the legislation will be voted on by the full Senate and House. Congressmen Harris and Hanna also introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 4007.
The national monument designation will serve as an intermediate step to fulfilling the greater vision of establishing national historical parks to honor Tubman. 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.
Maryland's proposal for a monument will focus on lands owned or managed by the federal government, including Stewart's Canal and other parts of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, significant to Tubman's early life in Dorchester County. The Conservation Fund is donating a 480-acre property, adjacent to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, known as the Jacob Jackson Home Site. Jacob Jackson was a free black who used coded letters to help Tubman communicate with family and others.
"Harriet Tubman is a true American hero, whose journeys along the Eastern Shore will mark Maryland forever," said Bill Crouch, The Conservation Fund's Maryland director. "The Conservation Fund is honored to donate this historic property for this potential national monument."
Maryland's Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park will also be included within the national monument's boundary. Groundbreaking on the State Park will occur in March of 2013 and include interpretive trails, a spiritual reflection garden and memorial, picnic pavilion, outdoor exhibits and a visitor center. The planned, 15,000 square-foot, LEED-certified visitor center will immerse guests into the life of Tubman, starting with her childhood, following her times as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and culminating with her continuous advocacy for justice.
"The descendants of Harriet Tubman, local residents, and historians whom have advocated for recognition and celebration of her legacy over recent decades have so much to offer to both the National and Maryland Park Services as we progress in these special projects," said Nita Settina, Maryland Park Service Superintendent. "We look forward to continuing to work closely with these dedicated advocates as we further develop the State Park and national monument."
Designated in 2009 as one of the best scenic driving tours in the nation, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Scenic Byway travels through 125-miles of Tubman's homeland. The Byway, developed in partnership with the Maryland Office of Tourism and the tourism offices of Dorchester and Caroline Counties, serves as a heritage, tourism and community development initiative. The project will coordinate the marketing and visitor experience with development of multiple projects along the Byway, including the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and the proposed National Monument and National Historical Park.
"Establishment of a national monument is a fitting tribute as we prepare for the 2013 Harriet Tubman Centennial Commemoration," said Christian Johansson, Secretary for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. "The designation will also further enhance the credibility of the sites along the Byway."