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Reintroduction of Bill Kicks off Black History Month
February 1, 2011
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin (both D-MD) today were joined by Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (both D-NY) in introducing legislation in the 112th Congress to honor the life of Harriet Ross Tubman, the most famous "conductor" of the anti-slavery resistance network known as the Underground Railroad.
The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park and The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park Act will establish two National Historic Parks, one in Maryland and one in New York. The National Historical Park in Maryland will 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. The National Historical Park in New York will be located in Auburn and will focus on her later years where she was active in the women's suffrage movement and in providing for the welfare of aged African Americans.
Harriet Tubman was born in Dorchester County, Maryland, where she spent nearly 30 years as a slave. She escaped slavery in 1849, but returned for more than 10 years to Dorchester and Caroline counties where she led hundreds of African Americans to freedom. Known as "Moses" by African-American and white abolitionists, she reportedly never lost a "passenger" on the Underground Railroad.
"Harriet Tubman was a courageous fighter who delivered 300 slaves to freedom on her Underground Railroad. She was tireless in her commitment to fight for those who could not fight themselves. I am proud to co-sponsor legislation that honors her memory," Senator Mikulski said. "If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Harriet Tubman knew that, and so do I. Her legacy continues to inspire me and I am proud to fight every day for the freedom and equality she dedicated her life to."
"It is most fitting that we begin Black History Month by introducing this bill to celebrate the life of Harriet Tubman, a true American patriot for whom liberty and freedom were principles in which she believed and risked her life to achieve," said Senator Cardin. "Her life was defined by determination, perseverance and hardship as she helped others on the road to freedom. These two parks will make it possible for Marylanders, New Yorkers and all Americans to trace her life's work and remember her tremendous contribution to our nation's history."
In Maryland, The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park would include historically important landscapes in Dorchester, Caroline and Talbot counties that are evocative of the life of Harriet Tubman.
In Dorchester County, the parcels include close to 2,775 acres located within the established master plan boundaries of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, but are not currently owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These parcels are significant sites in Harriet Tubman's life, including her likely birthplace, the Brodess Plantation parcel where she worked as a young girl; the Cook Plantation parcel where as a teenager she worked as a seamstress; and the Jacob Jackson parcel, which is believed to be the location of one of the first safe houses along the Underground Railroad.
The Harriet Tubman historic area also would include about 2,200 acres in Caroline County, which includes portions of the Poplar Neck plantation where Harriet Tubman escaped slavery in 1849. The 725 acres of viewshed across the Choptank River in Talbot County would also be included in the Park. These parcels are authorized to come under protection through conservation easements held by the private property owners.
In New York, The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park would include important historical structures in Auburn, New York. They include Tubman's home, the Home for the Aged that she established, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church, and the Fort Hill Cemetery where she is buried.
"This legislation will provide a big boost to our regional tourism industry as people from across the country flock to Auburn to visit the Harriet Tubman House. Harriet Tubman is an American hero, and we should be honoring and preserving her life's work so that it may inspire future generations to come. Thanks to this bill, the individuals who have been working so hard to protect her legacy in Auburn will now have the expertise and support they need to maintain the site as a monument to the freedom and equality that we cherish," said Senator Schumer.
"Harriet Tubman is a remarkable American hero who continues to inspire me today. Her unwavering commitment to helping others while risking her own life in the long fight for equality has left an indelible legacy. These two national parks in Maryland and Auburn, NY would provide an important place where men and women of all backgrounds can come together and reflect on the significance of her life," said Senator Gillibrand.
The bill was originally introduced in the 110th Congress and was re-introduced in the 111th Congress.