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The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Church Creek opened to the public, just in time for Harriet Tubman Day on March 10th. Its grand opening weekend featured presentations by a Tubman re-enactor, tours of the center’s legacy garden, children’s activities, and a ribbon cutting attended by Tubman’s own great-great-niece, Valerie Manokey.
Manokey, who lives in Cambridge, Maryland, said she felt “pride, honor, love, and resolution” upon the center’s opening.
The 81-year-old said, “We made it. And I am truly proud to say: ‘Yes, I am the niece of Harriet Tubman.'”
The center allows visitors to learn much more about Tubman than they might have in their history classes at school. Her experiences as a slave, abolitionist, Civil War nurse, spy, and scout are all highlighted. Tubman spent her formative years in Dorchester County, Maryland, as a slave. While she eventually escaped to Philadelphia, she returned to Maryland to help free her family, and later, hundreds of other slaves.
A permanent exhibit centers around the Underground Railroad resistance movement in the state, and the center actually serves as a gateway to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway. The self-guided driving tour consists of 125 miles of country road and shoreline throughout Maryland and includes 36 historical sites and points of interest.
The $21 million center is actually made up of four different buildings which contain sculptures, video feeds, and illustrations, as well as a research library, shop, and picnic facilities.
The center sits on a 17-acre plot adjacent to the Blackwater National Life Refuge. The center’s creators have brought these natural elements inside, opting for eco-friendly features. Although many green buildings use bamboo floors, which are made by a process that uses 100% of the stalk and produces zero waste. And since harvesting methods for this type of bamboo leaves more than 80% of the forest untouched, it’s a popular option for eco-conscious builders. But rather than focusing on floors, the Harriet Tubman center utilizes bio-retention ponds, rain barrels, and vegetative roofs to reduce its carbon footprint.
Managed by a partnership between the Maryland Park Service and the National Park Service, this newest center is a “sister park” to the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, located in Auburn, NY.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm and is free for visitors. Since having access to our nation’s history seems more important than ever, residents from Maryland and across the U.S. are sure to benefit from having no barrier to learning.