Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park
Photograph of Harriet Tubman. Photo courtesy Library of Congress
At A Glance
- Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery at age 27 on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
- Tubman returned more than a dozen times to lead African Americans north to freedom along the Underground Railroad.
- March 10, 2013, marked the 100th anniversary of Tubman's death.
- The Conservation Fund protected a key property at the heart of the new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park.
- The land we conserved tells Tubman's story right where it happened—and in a landscape that still looks much as it did during her time.
- "One hundred years after her death, we still look to Harriet Tubman as an American symbol of heroism, equality, justice and self-determination."—Lawrence Selzer, president and CEO, The Conservation Fund.
Statement, Gov. Martin O'Malley
“By selecting Maryland’s Eastern Shore as the site for the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park, President Obama will help us preserve the life and legacy of an American hero...We are grateful to President Obama and our federal, local and private partners, including The Conservation Fund, for a donation of land that made this park possible. Thanks to the hard work and commitment of many, Harriet Tubman’s legacy will live on forever.”
Harriet Tubman was a true American hero. Born on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Tubman spent nearly 30 years of her life as a slave. She escaped but repeatedly returned to Dorchester and Caroline counties to rescue other African Americans, leading them to freedom along the Underground Railroad. Tubman continued working for civil rights throughout her life, advancing Union efforts in the Civil War and later advocating for women’s rights.
On March 25, 2013, President Obama honored Tubman’s legacy by naming the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland. The monument included multiple properties that are “significant to Tubman’s early life in Dorchester County and evocative of her life as a slave and conductor of the Underground Railroad.”
Also in March, 2013, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources broke ground on the new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park, slated to open in 2015. The new park, established on a 17-acre property protected by the Fund, commemorates Tubman’s life work on the Underground Railroad in the landscape of marshes, woodlands and fields that are reminiscent of the backdrop for her early life on the Eastern Shore. The land is physically and thematically linked to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge through programming, multi-use trails and roads.
These events set the stage for a national historic park designation.
President Obama signed a law, under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), officially designating the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Maryland and the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in New York.
The Conservation Fund’s Role
The Conservation Fund helped make this designation possible by donating a key 480-acre property, at the heart of the park, to the National Park Service. That property includes the former home site of Jacob Jackson, a “free black” who helped Tubman rescue her brothers.
In 1854, Tubman discovered that her brothers were soon to be sold as slaves. She had a friend in Philadelphia write a letter to Jackson, who lived near the plantation where her brothers worked. Within the letter was a carefully coded message to Jacob to let her brothers know that she was coming for them. With Jacob’s help, Harriet’s brothers were able to meet her and escape out of Maryland and eventually into Canada.
The Park’s land, on the Eastern Shore, has the extraordinary power to tell Tubman’s story right where it happened—and in a landscape that still looks much as it did during her time.