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Harriet Tubman Is Getting Her Own National Historical Park

The park will tell the story of Tubman’s later years

Harriet Tubman in 1911. The later years of her life are being preserved at a new national historical park that bears her name. (Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)
smithsonian.com

Harriet Tubman was born in slavery in Maryland, but she lived out her old age in Auburn, New York, on a property all her own. Now, that property and others related to Tubman are being celebrated anew. As the Associated Press reports, Harriet Tubman is getting her own national historical park in upstate New York.

It will be called the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, and it will commemorate the later years of the iconic Underground Railroad conductor. The park will cover not only Tubman’s property, but the Thompson Memorial AME Zion Church, where Tubman, her family, and the African-American community in Auburn at the time worshiped. Also included in the park will be the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, which Tubman founded as a place to care for elderly, destitute African-Americans after the Civil War.

All of the sites covered in the new park had poignant meaning for Tubman, who was born in slave quarters on a plantation in Maryland at some point in the early 1820s. Tubman was forced to serve the children of the plantation owner’s family and endured both beatings and at least one severe head injury at the hands of her masters. In 1849, facing the threat of her family being broken up and sold to different masters, she escaped slavery. She was aided by conductors on the Underground Railroad.

After her escape, Tubman became a conductor herself. She rescued so many slaves from the South that she was nicknamed “Moses.” She is thought to have guided at least 300 slaves to freedom, including many of her family members.

She didn’t stop there: Not only did she advocate for the abolition of slavery, but she acted as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, she retired to her property in Auburn along with many of her family members and devoted the rest of her life to promoting women’s suffrage and helping African-Americans.

Now, she’ll have another national park that bears her name. The first, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, was established in 2013 in Maryland. It will serve as a sister park to the newly established upstate New York park. Both are designated historical parks as opposed to national parks; though they are administered by the National Park Service, they comprise multiple historical sites and not large natural landscapes.

In a release, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Senators Charles Schumer, Kristen Gillibrand and U.S. Congressman John Katko, who helped champion the park’s creation, celebrate the stewardship and cooperation that resulted in the park’s creation. “These two parks preserve and showcase a more complete history of one of America’s pivotal humanitarians,” says Jewell.

That history wasn’t always happy for Tubman, whose later years were often marred by the health ramifications of years of brutal enslavement and a violent gold swindle that increased her economic woes. But the very fact she lived out her history in freedom is a testament to her strength—and the story is now the new park’s to tell.

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