Plans Progress in Congress for Tubman National Parks, Brian Shane, USA TODAY, February 22, 2012.
Donald Pinder grew up hearing the stories of Harriet Tubman's determination to accomplish social change in the face of slavery. "She just knew there was something morally wrong with this institution of slavery," said Pinder, 60, president of the Cambridge, Md.-based Harriet Tubman Organization. Pinder and his group seek to honor Tubman, an escaped slave who helped dozens of slaves find freedom through the network of safe houses called the Underground Railroad.
A bill that would actually create two parks — one in Maryland and one in New York— made it out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in November and now awaits a full Senate vote. It's sponsored by Maryland Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, and New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, all Democrats. "We're very optimistic that it won't take long," said Cardin spokeswoman Susan Sullam.
Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., introduced a companion bill in the House in January. It is under review in a national parks subcommittee. "We just wanted Harriet Tubman's name and all of her works to get out there, so people could really realize who she was, other than just hearing the name, and somebody saying, 'I know her, she was an escaped slave,' " Pinder said. "This is why our organization has been part of this, so people cannot hear it as oral history but see it as written American history."
He said his group's efforts began in the late 1990s, and led to a National Park Service study to see if history deemed Tubman worthy of her own park, "so people can find out the places she's been, the things she's done, the people she was connected with, the conversations that she had," Pinder said. The study, concluded in 2008, showed not only was Tubman worthy of one park, but two.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park would blanket 5,700 acres on Maryland's Eastern Shore where Tubman was born and raised. The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park would focus on her twilight years in Auburn, N.Y., where she died in 1913 at age 93. Other efforts are underway to honor Tubman in her home state. One Maryland state legislator is trying to get a statue of Tubman placed somewhere inside the U.S. Capitol, and is working toward a presidentially-declared Harriet Tubman Day.
"She was, like, the classic over-achiever," Democratic Maryland state Delegate Susan Lee said. "She's one of the heroes of history."
Lee said tourists from around the world would visit a national park area dedicated to Tubman, one where the landscape doesn't look so different from the 1850s, when she was leading slaves to freedom.
Text Source: USAToday, February 22, 2010
Image Source: Advertisement for Minty [AKA Harriet Tubman}