This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Black liberationist Harriet Tubman and although many of the celebratory events surrounding her birthday take place in March, those interested in visiting the areas where she once lived can do so at any time.
The scenic Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway lets drivers explore the scenery of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, bringing them to dozens of interesting sites that not only help to tell Tubman’s story, but the history of the region during the 19th century.
Here are some of the sites you can experience along the Byway.
Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center
The Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center in Cambridge, Md., has committed itself to preserving the memory and legacy of Tubman through tours, exhibits, educational programming and much more. Volunteers with the center also provide answers to questions about her life and the region where she lived. It is marked with a mural by artist Michael Rosato entitled “Take My Hand” on the museum’s exterior wall.
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park & Visitor Center
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park & Visitor Center, in Church Creek, Md., allows its visitors to go deep into her early years in the Choptank River area and introduces them to several Underground Railroad sites in the region. The center has a research library, information desk and exhibit space. It also sits adjacent to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
Bucktown General Store
This historic site in Bucktown, Md., was the site of a transformative experience in Harriet Tubman’s life. In 1835, an overseer pursuing a slave at the store threw a two-pound weight at him, but struck the girl in the head, causing permanent injury. Despite intense bleeding, she was never treated and throughout her life she suffered severe headaches and narcolepsy. But she always said that during her sudden slumbers she received visions from God that influenced her later freedom fighting actions. The store now offers education about Tubman and the Underground Railroad.
Bestpitch Ferry Bridge
Situated in Bucktown, Md., it is one of the most important locales on the Underground Railroad, the wooden Bestpitch Ferry Bridge is the site of ferries that moved along the Transquaking River. In the 1800s Black people, both free and enslaved, operated the watercrafts along the river, taking goods and people to different destinations. But many people seeking freedom would hitch rides on the ferries in attempts to reach places that would take them out of slave territory. The bridge had been closed, but last year the Dorchester County Council voted to reopen it along with necessary repairs.
This is where Edward Brodess, who held Tubman in slavery during her early years, operated a farm on Greenbrier Road in Cambridge, Md. He moved her and her mother, Rit, to this farm sometime after 1823 or 1824. Brodess frequently rented his slaves out to other farmers, and that included Tubman, her mother and siblings. In interviews later in her life, Tubman recalled that Brodess was “never unnecessarily cruel; but as was common among slaveholders, he often hired out his slaves to others, some of whom proved to be tyrannical and brutal to the utmost limit of their power.” Her brothers, however, remembered him as a sadist. The farmhouse no longer exists, but the land is privately owned and is marked with a sign acknowledging her childhood home.
There's long list of places to go and things to do along the Harriet Tubman Byway in Maryland. You can learn more by visiting https://harriettubmanbyway.org/