Maryland

Underground Railroad visitor center opens for business

Underground Railroad visitor center...

DORCHESTER COUNTY, Md. - With anticipation building for months now, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Dorchester County is, as they say, open for business.

As we reported here before on 47 ABC, this center is a part of a huge effort to call attention to the life and legacy of Harriet Tubman.

Today was an "invitation only" grand opening.

Guests came by the busloads to witness this historical moment.

It was as if the pages in a book on the life of Harriet Tubman had come to life-- in an instant.

It was overwhelming.

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson--whose book "Bound for the Promised land" was the historical point of reference for the exhibits, gave her initial reaction.

“Well, tears first of all and great pride and honor that this is happening for Harriet Tubman.  She deserves this, and I'm so excited for the world to come here and experience this exhibit and learn about the real flesh and blood woman”.

Aside from the size of the exhibit pieces, the quotes and images are spectacular.

Beginning with her childhood and adult life as a woman of faith and moving into her roles as Underground Railroad agent, civil war spy and humanitarian, one really felt as though they were in the life of Harriet Tubman, beginning with a video on the beauty of the Choptank river region and on the other side, the ugliness of slavery.

That's followed by a section about her faith, which is the only section that doesn't have a quote directly from Harriet Tubman.

Thomas Garrett, who was a white, male landowning Quaker and was pivotal to the movement had this to say: "I never met any person of any color who had more confidence in the voice of God as spoken direct to her soul…and her faith in a supreme power truly was great."

The next section is all about the Underground Railroad and her self-emancipation and the emancipation of the rest of her family and friends.

As the story goes, she emancipated herself and came back 12 times for family and friends.

The visitor center is a storied piece of history that takes you on a winding road in the life of Tubman.

With a Jacob Lawrence photo on the west well, designed to capture the rays of the sunset, and a legacy section that talks about the home Tubman purchased and the house she opened for aging African Americans, guests are literally immersed into who she was.  It's intended to be seen, felt and experienced.

Dr. Larson said about Tubman, “She fought for freedom for her and her family. She was tied up and bound by her faith, her love of her community.”

“She would be happy with the changes today but she would know there's more work to do and I hope she's an inspiration for people to continue the fight. She would be smiling today.”


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