It was seeing “Harriet” at the Old Greenbelt Theatre that inspired me to learn more about Harriet Tubman. And lucky for us, her travels and travails were local and memorialized in the Cambridge area on the Eastern Shore – as close as a 90-minute drive from Greenbelt!
Apparently the movie prompted lots of us to make the trip. The Washington Post chronicled the increased interest in these local historical sites since the movie’s premiere.
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park
My first stop was the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, a joint state and national park that opened in 2013. Visitors “experience Tubman’s world through exhibits that are informative and emotive, providing an in-depth understanding of Tubman’s early years spent in Maryland’s Choptank River region and her legacy as a leader, liberator and humanitarian in the resistance movement of the Underground Railroad.”
.The Visitor Center features a museum store, information desk, research library and an exhibit space. Watch the film and if you have time, listen to the docent.
The website explains that “The location was chosen because the view is preserved by the surrounding Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Very few structures remain from her time in the Choptank River region, so the landscape is a large part of the experience. Tubman may have traveled through the area.”
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway
The park is also the trailhead for the 125‐mile Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, a self-guided tour of 35 sites and programs within the county and region. As the organizers explained to the Washington Post, “Maryland is the “most powerful Underground Railroad storytelling destination in the world.”
Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center
My second stop was the Harriet Tubman Museum & Educational Center about 20 minutes away, in “downtown” Cambridge, MD.
Founded in the mid-1980s, the museum is a volunteer-run operation by the Harriet Tubman Organization, “dedicated to preserving Tubman’s connection to the local community and to helping young people see Tubman as a role model.”
Inside the museum, there are exhibits and resources, and volunteers answer questions and provide information on Harriet Tubman and the region. The museum hosts numerous programs throughout the year, including an annual memorial banquet in March.
Museum hours are Tuesdays through Fridays 12 pm – 3 pm, Saturdays 12 pm – 4 pm.
The museum building features on its exterior side wall a “powerful and moving mural” of Harriet Tubman that was just completed in May 2019 and has already “attracted attention from around the country,” according to the organization’s website.
This fabulous mural by Michael Rosato has been turned into equally fabulous souvenirs, including a T-shirt I’ll be wearing proudly as soon as weather warms up.
Imagine the glory and income brought to the museum (and the town) by this one glorious piece of art. Yes, I’m on my Murals for Greenbelt kick again!
Photo credit for museum front facade in Cambridge. Credit for map: Karen Minot.