$21 Million Harriet Tubman State Park Project Now Open

The visitor center at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park (Courtesy of DiversityInc)
The visitor center at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park (Courtesy of DiversityInc)

In Dorchester County, Maryland, near the plantation where Harriet Tubman was born in 1822, now sits a 17-acre park to memorialize the iconic freedom fighter.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park is located in Church Creek on Maryland’s Eastern shore, about 90 miles from Baltimore or Washington, D.C. A grand opening and festivities took place on Saturday and Sunday. The visitor center sits along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway and offers a view of the surrounding Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

“Harriet Tubman is a true Maryland treasure and who remains relevant to this very day,” said Maryland Park Service Manager Dana Paterra. “Her path to freedom was wrought with peril but she persevered and overcame many struggles to become an American icon.”

Expert craftsmen from around the world worked on the $21 million project, which incorporated reclaimed barn wood, exposed timbers and stone. Views of the surrounding landscapes look much like they did in Tubman’s time, according to VisitDorchester.org. The complex also features 3/4 of a mile in walking paths and a 2,600-square foot outdoor pavilion.

The visitor center includes green elements such as bio-retention ponds, rain barrels and vegetative roofs. It has an exhibit hall, museum store and research library. The exhibit features information about Tubman’s early life and, after escaping from slavery in 1849, her role in leading African Americans to freedom using the Underground Railroad, a secret network of routes and safe houses that ushered slaves to the North.

“The exhibit runs chronologically, taking visitors through her childhood to her teenage years, when an overseer threw a heavy weight at her head, which left her with seizures for the rest of her life,” NPR’s Parth Shah said in an interview. “The visitor center was overflowing with tourists on its opening weekend, with a dozen standing in the blustery weather outside waiting to get in.”

Tubman to replace former President Andrew Jackson as the featured image of the $20 bill; some say it’s a bad idea.

In April the U.S. Department of Treasury announced that Tubman would be featured on the front of a new $20 bill. She will make history as the first woman highlighted prominently on U.S. paper currency in circulation.

President Donald Trump, then a Republican presidential candidate, expressed disappointment in the Department of Treasury’s decision to move former President Andrew Jackson to the back of the $20 bill.

“I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic, I would love to leave Andrew Jackson and see if we can come up with another denomination,” Trump said at the time. “Maybe we can do the $2 bill? I don’t like seeing it. I think it’s pure political correctness.”

The Republican presidential candidate called the recent decision to feature civil rights pioneer Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill “pure political correctness.”

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson previously complained Tubman would diminish the value of the currency.

“Maybe she should be on a bill that’s worth less?” Carson said on Fox Business Network’s Cavuto Coast to Coast in April.

“Andrew Jackson was the last president who actually balanced the federal budget, where we had no national debt,” Carson said. “In honor of that, we kick him off of the money.”