Efforts are underway in Congress to recognize Harriet Tubman with the designation of her home in Auburn, New York, and an area on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where she was born a slave, and helped numerous slaves escape bondage on the Underground Railroad.
Don’t think there is much chance of this getting through a Republican majority Congress, not only because of the usual hostility – but because of the extreme focus this term on cost cutting.
Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave who led others to freedom on the Underground Railroad, could be honored with two national parks promoting her life.
Senators from Maryland and New York introduced legislation on Tuesday — the start of Black History Month — to create parks in both states that would protect sites connected to her life as an abolitionist and later as an advocate for women’s suffrage.
Tubman — known as “the black Moses” for leading hundreds of slaves out of bondage in the South to freedom in the North — lived much of her adult life in Auburn, N.Y. in the state’s Finger Lakes region. If the bill becomes law, her home, the cemetery where she was buried in 1913 and the Home for the Aged, an early nursing home for African-Americans she created, would become part of the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park.
In the Eastern Shore of Maryland where Tubman was born in 1822, the bill would make a sweeping Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Historical Park, covering her presumed birthplace and the site of former plantations where she was enslaved until she ran away in 1849. Tubman returned to the area for 10 years as a famed conductor on the Underground Railroad, and the park would include the location of a former safe house along the route to the North.
“Harriet Tubman [was] a true American patriot for whom liberty and freedom were principles in which she believed and risked her life to achieve,” said U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., in a statement. “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.”
Similar bills haven’t made it out of Congress before, like a previous attempt in 2009, but advocates hailed the latest effort to pass the bill — introduced by Cardin and fellow Senate Democrats Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer of New York.
“America itself continues to evolve with its changing diversity of people, and it’s very important that national parks continue to reflect the broadening of society,” National Park Conservation Association Northeast Director Alex Brash told AOL News. “Harriet Tubman’s home tells a different story.”
Some spots inside the would-be Auburn park are already landmarks, like Tubman’s grave site. But turning them into a national park would boost their funding and possibly help attract more visitors to the cradle of the women’s rights movement from the late 1800s.
“I think it would be a great thing for Auburn,” Mayor Mike Quill told the Syracuse Post-Standard. “We’re trying to push tourism … and this ties right into it.”
In Maryland there are no sites still standing from Tubman’s life, but supporters said her contribution to local and national history deserve recognition in the form of a park.
“It’s because of what she did and what she fought for,” Donald Pinder, director of the Harriet Tubman Organization in Cambridge, Md., told AOL News. “She was about morality at a time when people didn’t exercise any morality when it came to slaves and free black people.”