New Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument conserves history, landscape

The Chesapeake Conservancy today praised President Barack Obama for his commitment to use the Antiquities Act to establish the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument. The Conservancy was a leading advocate for the establishment of the monument, having stimulated hundreds of letters of support to the Obama Administration and members of Congress.

The Conservancy noted that creating the monument required strong support from many organizations, including the Harriet Tubman Organization, Dorchester County’s Council, The Conservation Fund, Preservation Maryland, and Maryland elected officials, including Governor Martin O’Malley, Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD.)

“Harriet Tubman, Maryland’s heroic conductor on the Underground Railroad and early leader for women’s rights, will now get the recognition she deserves,” said Joel Dunn, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Conservancy.
“Commemoration of Tubman’s life and the conservation of the Eastern Shore landscapes will encourage tourism and education, ensuring an appreciation of our history and environment.”

The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument will include locations in Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot Counties, Maryland and would complement Maryland’s Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park, which broke ground for construction on March 9.

The Monument and State Park together will create a place to explore Tubman’s life, and conserve the landscape in southern Dorchester County where her story began. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is adjacent to the proposed National Park. The refuge, the State Park, and the National Park together protect one of the nation’s premier waterfowl habitats and bird watching destinations.

Tubman was born on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She escaped slavery at age 27, in 1849, but returned to Dorchester and Caroline counties an estimated 13 times over the next decade to help slaves escape to the North. During the Civil War she was a nurse, and in later years Tubman worked for women’s rights.

The Chesapeake Conservancy helped facilitate the initial legislation for a Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Park, which was reintroduced in Congress this winter, and also worked with local and national organizations to garner support for a National Monument designation.

The Harriet Tubman National Monument was one of five National Monuments the President designated Monday. The others were: the First State National Monument in Delaware and Pennsylvania; the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico; the San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington State; and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio.