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Marylanders can take pride in Harriet Tubman National Monument


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Published on: Wednesday, April 03, 2013

By U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin

President Obama recently marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Harriet Tubman by designating the establishment of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Dorchester County. I cannot think of a more fitting or compelling tribute to one of the most courageous, inspirational heroes in our nation’s history.

Harriet Ross Tubman was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. As a young child and adult, she toiled for a number of masters, escaping from slavery in her mid-20s to become the most famous “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. She also served as a nurse and a spy for the Union during the Civil War. In her later years, she 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, N.Y.

All Marylanders can be proud that this new national monument will memorialize the tremendous contributions Harriet Tubman made to American history. It also preserves the unique landscape associated with her life on the Eastern Shore, which remains almost unchanged today. President Obama’s National Monument designation will serve as an intermediate step to fulfilling an even greater vision of honoring her legacy.

That vision includes legislation I have authored — The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park and The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park Act, S. 247 — to create a National Historical Park in Maryland and another in New York to honor the legacy and life’s work of Harriet Tubman. Co-sponsors of S. 247 include: U.S. Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.  

The new National Monument designated by President Obama will be located in Dorchester County on lands that were historically significant to Harriet Tubman’s life and her work on the Underground Railroad. Located within the national monument are portions of Stewart’s Canal, a manmade waterway Harriet Tubman’s father, Ben Ross, helped build as a slave.

The national monument also will contain 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 a 480-acre property, adjacent to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, to the National Park Service for the purposes of establishing the monument.

Harriet Tubman was an iconic figure in our nation’s history, and as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of her death this year, this designation is an important step in fully honoring this true American heroine.

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