By Ron Stodghill – Cambridge, Md.
I set off on a three-day trek across the Eastern Shore, Tubman’s birthplace and the landscape she traversed, fugitive slaves in tow, from Dorchester County through Delaware into Philadelphia.
My trip coincided with the state’s renewed fervor around Tubman: On March 11, the Maryland State Park Service and the National Park Service will open the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, a $21 million project in Church Creek that commemorates Tubman’s journey, from slave to Underground Railroad “conductor” and, later in life, Civil War scout, spy and nurse. Sitting on 17 acres, the center will be part of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, a 125-mile self-guided driving tour that wends through 36 significant sites along the Eastern Shore.
From the early 1600s until the mid-1800s, thousands of African-Americans would encounter the marshy wooded landscape of the Chesapeake Bay region, first as a gateway through which slave traders forcibly brought them from Africa into the colonies and later as essential paths and waterways that formed the Underground Railroad.
In 1850, Maryland had 279 runaway slaves, leading the nation’s slave states in successfully executed escapes, the author Kate Clifford Larson says in the Harriet Tubman biography “Bound for the Promised Land.” “But few returned to the land of their enslavers, risking capture and re-enslavement, even lynching, to help others seek their own emancipation,” Ms. Larson writes.
Among those few was Tubman.
Read the complete article in The New York Times here.
Photo by Darren S. Higgins