By Renée S. Gordon
“The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witness of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism.”
–Frederick Douglass on Harriet Tubman
This March locations throughout the country will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Harriet Tubman. The most significant of the commemorative activities will be held in Dorchester County, Maryland, the area in which Harriet spent her formative years. Major events will take place beginning with the Tubman Wreath-Laying at the Tubman Memorial Garden on February 2nd and culminating with a theatrical depiction of her life by the American Opera Projects on October 5th and 6th.
Additional scheduled activities include the annual Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Conference, May 31st-June 1st and a jazz tribute on March 10th. Information on all scheduled events and activities is available from Amanda Fenstermaker, [email protected]
Two new experiences will be inaugurated in March, the groundbreaking for the Harriet Tubman State Park and the ribbon-cutting for the 125-mile Tubman Byway that extends from Cambridge, Maryland to Sandtown, Delaware, a city on the Maryland-Delaware State Line. Byway tours can be self-guided and information, maps and brochures are currently available. www.harriettubmanbyway.org
To say that Harriet Tubman was remarkable is a gross understatement and her achievements have not been diminished by time, revisionist history or politically correct interpretations of the Civil War.
Though some dates and numbers may be in question her story is legendary. www.visitmaryland.org
Araminta Ross was born around 1820 to Harriet Green, a slave of Mary Brodess, and Ben Ross who would be freed in 1840. At the age of 6 she was made to work as a nursemaid and by the age of 10 she was working in the fields. She later talked openly of having been whipped so severely she bore scars but the pivotal event of her youth as not a result of punishment however Harriet was in the local dry goods store in 1834 when Thomas Barnett, the community overseer, asked her to grab a fleeing slave who had run into the store. She did not.
Barnett threw a 2-lb. weight, missing the slave and hitting Harriet in the head rendering her unconscious for two days. When she awakened she was returned immediately to the fields. For the rest of her life she suffered from severe headaches, visions and seizures. Harriet married a freeman, John Tubman, in 1844. When she escaped 5 years later he refused to accompany her. She fled to Philadelphia where she obtained a job in a hotel.
Harriet’s first rescue was that of her niece Kessiah in 1850 and she is believed to have made at least 19 trips rescuing approximately 300 slaves between 1850 and 1861. On her third trip to rescue slaves she returned for John Tubman only to find he had remarried. During the Civil War she served as a nurse, cook, spy and is recognized as the first female to lead a raid when she spearheaded the South Carolina Combahee River Raid leading to the manumission of more than 750 area slaves who walked off their plantations when she and the troops arrived. In the 1890s she received a meager military pension. You can view her original claim at www.archives.gov/legislative/features/claim-of-harriet-tubman
After the war Harriet settled in Auburn, New York and in 1869 she wed Nelson Davis, a former member of the United States Colored Troops, who was 20 years her junior. They adopted a girl five-years later and were wed until his death from tuberculosis in 1888. In her later years she worked for women’s suffrage and in 1908 opened the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged on her property. She died of pneumonia in Auburn in 1913 and was interred with full military honors in Auburn’s Fort Hill Cemetery. The Harriet Tubman Home is located at 180 South Street in Auburn, NY. www.harriethouse.org
The 105-mile “Finding a Way to Freedom” Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad Tour encompasses sites significant to the enslaved, freedman and freedom seekers. What is most wonderful about this route is the fact that much of the landscape remains unaltered and travelers are afforded the unique opportunity to see and experience the world as 19th-century African Americans did.
Dorchester County Visitor Center at Sailwinds Park is the first stop. The center provides a good introduction to Dorchester County. The earliest documentation of blacks in the region dates from the 1630s. The first enslaved blacks came in the 1680s and 90s and they came from the Western Shore. Two galleries on the lower level explore African American history as well as the region’s natural history. The building itself is beautiful, built to replicate a ship at full sail, and it offers complete traveler’s services. www.tourdorchester.org
Events that took place in Cambridge, Maryland are at the heart of the Tubman Legacy. The Dorchester County Courthouse was the site of Harriet’s first rescue. It was from the lawn of the courthouse that Kessiah and her two children were sold. This was also the location of the infamous trials of Rev. Samuel Greene in 1857 and the incarceration of Hugh Hazlett in 1858. This is the second courthouse on the site and dates from 1854.
Greene was a minister and a UGRR operator. He was accused of assisting 10 people in their escape and because it could not be proven he was tried instead for owning abolitionist literature in the form of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” He received a 10-year sentence. In 1862 he was pardoned by the governor with the provision that he vacate the state within two-months. He and his family moved to Canada.
A black informer betrayed Hugh Hazlett, a lawyer and UGRR conductor, as he was guiding seven slaves to freedom. He was carried back to Cambridge by boat and jailed. He was eventually tried in the Circuit Court and received a 44-year, six-month and nine-day sentence to be served in the Maryland Penitentiary. He was given clemency after Maryland’s Constitution outlawed slavery on the grounds of good conduct and the fact that under the new law he had not committed a crime.
A few blocks from the courthouse is the Long Wharf of the Choptank River. This port was the setting for slave sales as well as an embarkation point for freedom seekers.
The Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center is located in downtown Cambridge. The museum has exhibits, a mural and a small gift shop. It is a good place to schedule special tours and gather information on all events connected with Harriet Tubman. www.cambridgemainstreet.com
Stanley Institute was built in 1865 and was moved in 1867 to its current location. The one-room schoolhouse was an educational facility for grades 1-7 until 1962. The ceiling, floor and blackboard are original and it is listed on the National Register.
A historic marker on the exterior commemorates the Cambridge “Stampede of Slaves.” This unbelievable event occurred on October 24, 1857. Forty-two heavily armed men, women and children made a successful break for freedom.
The John Mills’ Bucktown Village Store is, in my opinion, the highlight of any Tubman related tour. This is not the original store but is built on the footprint of the one in which Harriet was injured. The store is outfitted as it would have been then and on the counter there is a 2-lb weight. Also displayed are authentic slave tags and shackles. www.bucktownvillagefoundation.org
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1933 along the Atlantic flyway. A drive along a 6.5-mile loop within the 27,000-acre refuge gives visitors an opportunity to experience the habitat, sight birds and animals including endangered species and engage in numerous recreational activities. The 17-acre Harriet Tubman State Park will be located less than one-mile from the refuge upon its completion. www.fws.gov/blackwater
Caroline County, Maryland, north of Dorchester, was the path taken by freedom seekers because two major UGRR routes ran through it and it was home to a significant number of abolitionists including the Levertons. Their home, currently privately owned, was owned by Quakers, Jacob and Hannah Leverton, and functioned as an UGRR station. Legend has it that the Levertons assisted Tubman. It is also believed that after their activities were discovered the family lost everything. www.TourCaroline.com
The 1831 Linchester Mill is situated close by a shallow place in Hunting Creek, the most likely place for fugitives to cross. Tours of the mill, one of the last operating mills in the country, are available.
The Eastern Shore’s sole surviving log cabin built by a free African American is the James H. Webb Cabin. Though Webb was free he had to purchase his wife and two children. The house was built in 1852 on his 54-acre farm and features a below ground food pit that may have been used to hide fugitives.
The Choptank River Heritage Center and Joppa Wharf Museum is situated on the shore of the river. The building is a replica of an 1883 river terminal. In the years before the Civil War enslaved African Americans worked here and this is where Hugh Hazlett boarded a boat for Cambridge. The view from the center is terrific. www.riverheritage.org
The four-diamond Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina is a perfect place from which to begin your adventure. The resort has a long list of amenities, luxury accommodations and the Sago Spa and Salon. Also scheduled are a series of special events including a Super Spy Mission for families in conjunction with The International Spy Museum and Iron Chef Competitions. Numerous specials are available thru February, don’t forget Valentines Day, and all necessary information is available online. www.chesapeakebay.hyatt.com
The National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian is scheduled to open on the Mall in 2015 but donations are being collected. On the 97th anniversary of Tubman’s death Pennsylvania’s Charles Blockson donated 39 artifacts once the property of Harriet Tubman to the museum. A highlight of the collection is a shawl gifted to her by Queen Victoria.
I wish you smooth travels!
On February 9th the 30th Street Craft Market will be held at Art Deco 30th Street Station in the North Waiting Room. Thirty vendors will be displaying their wares.
Nineteen boutique hotels will participate in the first Design Collection promotion from January 2, 2013, to February 28, 2013. These hotels are offering savings at New York’s best design-themed cultural institutions. Detailed information is available at www.nycgo.com/designcollection
“Take the Money and Run”, another creative package is offered by NY&Co, on weekend bookings until March 31st. Special rates are offered and included with deluxe accommodations are 50 “City Fun Bucks to be used on a variety of items. Rooms must be booked by January 31st, just in time to attend “Motown the Musical.” www.cityfunbucks.com
The Penn Museum will be exhibiting an Ancient Roman Mosaic from Lod Israel as the final stop on an international tour from February 10—May 19, 2013. This 1,700-year old work of art was rediscovered in 1996 about 3-ft. below the current street level. http://www.lodmosaic.org