We got a sneak peek at the still-under-construction Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center, and it’s amazing. The grand opening of the 17-acre complex on Route 335 near Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is planned for March 2017. While the buildings are nearly complete now, much work remains on fabricating the interactive exhibits and a 10-minute film. The state park is located in Dorchester County on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
The state park and visitor center focus on the theme of “the view north,” which relates to the journey north that enslaved people took to reach freedom in the 1800s. Everything from the location of the buildings to the exhibits tie in to the theme.
We saw a virtual tour of the 10,000-square-foot exhibit hall, and we think it’s bound to be enlightening and inspiring as stories of Harriet Tubman and other freedom seekers are shared in thought-provoking and interactive ways. The exhibits will touch on three main themes — the Choptank area and Harriet Tubman’s family, community, and faith; the Underground Railroad as a national resistance movement; and how Harriet Tubman is still relevant today.
The complex will also feature 3/4-mile in walking paths and a 2,600-square-foot outdoor pavilion, complete with fireplace, which will be available for rental for family reunions and other events. Also situated on the land will be offices for the Maryland Park Service, the National Park Service’s Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, and the Network to Freedom national headquarters.
The buildings are designed to earn the silver LEED certification with vegetative roofs, geothermal heating and cooling, permeable parking areas and paths, and solar-powered external lighting.
We were also impressed with the passion of the people building the center — expert craftsmen from around the world are working on this $21 million project that incorporates reclaimed barn wood, exposed timbers, stone, and views of the surrounding landscapes, which look much like they did in Harriet Tubman’s time. We are hopeful that this new attraction in Dorchester County will draw people from all over the world.
Find out more on the Harriet Tubman State Park and Visitor Center website.
One of the goals of the new visitor center is to encourage people to get out and explore the historic sites that are part of our Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, a self-guided driving tour of more than 30 sites of historical significance in Dorchester and Caroline Counties in Maryland. You can explore the Byway now by ordering the free Map & Guide or picking it up at the Dorchester Visitor Center, 2 Rose Hill Place in Cambridge, Maryland. You can also download the excellent Audio Guide, which shares the stories of courage and selflessness in dramatic fashion. Keep up with the latest news about the Byway and the Visitor Center and State Park on our Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway Facebook page.
To mark the anniversary of the passing of Harriet Tubman, there will be a Tubman Day Symposium on March 10 at 4pm at the new (and not yet officially open) <a href="http://dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/eastern/tubman.aspx" target="_blank">Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park Visitor Center</a>. (NOTE: If construction issues prevent the event from happening there, the symposium will be moved to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center at 2145 Key Wallace Drive, Cambridge, MD. Updates will be posted here closer to the event date.)
The title of the symposium is "Re-examining the Meaning of Freedom: Harriet Tubman's Fervent Quest to Return." The symposium is open to all. The objective of this symposium is to explore the African American journey towards freedom and the extent to which an "afterlife" is achieved. After freeing herself, Harriet Tubman returned to the Eastern Shore of Maryland several times to rescue several members of her family. Apparently, freedom took on a different face for a "lonely" Tubman and the idea of personal freedom without her love ones gave her greater determination to help others escape so to experience "freedom" with a sense of wholeness.
Invited panelists will take a closer look at their research to further examine the aftermath and true meaning of freedom for "runaway slaves" within a historical context. The overall goal of this formal interpretive program is to prompt opportunities to re-evaluate the historical question of "Freedom" within a 21st century paradigm. This scholarly discourse which will include a moderator, panelists and audience participation will essentially create new conversations on civil disobedience, resistance and the many assertions that the Underground Railroad becomes the backdrop for the modern American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and beyond. This special event seeks to challenge this and future generations to think more provocatively about American slave historiography and the longstanding Civil Rights movement leading up to the ever-changing present day "freedom" narratives across the globe.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park Visitor Center is located on Route 335 adjacent to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
Registration is now open for the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Conference, happening in Cambridge, Maryland, on June 5 and 6, 2015. The annual event features two days of workshops about Harriet Tubman and other freedom seekers on the Underground Railroad -- as well as opportunities for local tours through the landscapes where Harriet Tubman once lived. The idea is to bring together professionals and individual researchers who have undertaken study regarding Harriet Tubman and the many other people who risked their lives to provide slaves an opportunity to escape this region, and place them into a larger context of national importance. Find out more information and register at www.tubmanugrr.com.
Could Harriet Tubman end up on the $20 bill? It's possible! A grassroots movement, Women on 20s, is pushing to replace Andrew Jackson with a historic U.S. woman. And the woman they selected -- with help from more than 600,000 people who voted -- is Harriet Tubman! (They started with 20 history-making women in the running, and then narrowed the field to four finalists including Harriet, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and Wilma Mankiller.) While the movement has gained attention from around the world, it's up to the Treasury Department to make decisions on who's represented on U.S. currency. We think this courageous and selfless leader, spy, scout, nurse, and all-around humanitarian deserves the honor. Read more in this Baltimore Sun story.
The Harriet Tubman Banquet celebrates the life of a freedom fighter, scout, spy, nurse and abolitionist born in Dorchester County, Maryland. The banquet begins at 2:45pm on Saturday, March 14, 2015, at the Dorchester Center for the Arts, 321 High Street in Cambridge, Maryland. The theme is “Harriet Ross Tubman is Coming Home – We Thank You.” Honorees include Senator Ben Cardin, Senator Barbara Mikulski; Representative Andy Harris, and Former Governor Martin O’Malley. The event is sponsored by the Harriet Tubman Organization, Inc. Tickets cost $35 per person or $60 per couple. Contact person for ticket info and reservations is Donald Pinder at 410-228-0401 or 410-330-1185..
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