Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center at sunrise.

March 11th: Harriet Tubman Day Celebrations in Delaware, Opening of National Park in Maryland

The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, Cambridge, Md, opens March 11, as Delaware celebrates Harriet Tubman Day.
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center at sunrise.
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, Cambridge, Md., at sunrise. Credit: NPS Photo/ Beth Parnicza. The sun rises in the northern section of the visitor center, reflecting the glowing promise of freedom in northern territories.

Harriet Tubman Day 2017 in Delaware will be celebrated on Saturday, March 11, 2017 with a series of free public programs at two locations in downtown Wilmington: the Delaware History Museum and the Wilmington Friends Meeting House. Events happen on the same day the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park officially opens its visitors center to the public.

Harriet Tubman Day is held annually in Delaware in commemoration of the March 10, 1913 death of the noted Underground Railroad conductor. Tubman is documented as traveling through the state’s Sussex and Kent counties with the aid of local black families, and she frequently collaborated with noted abolitionist Thomas Garrett of Wilmington. A recent story in the New York Times tracked significant sites along Tubman’s journey from enslavement in Cambridge, Md., to freedom in Philadelphia.

As Delaware celebrates Harriet Tubman Day, the Maryland State Park Service and the National Park Service will open the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, which the New York Times reports is “a $21 million project in Church Creek that commemorates Tubman’s journey, from slave to Underground Railroad ‘conductor’ and, later in life, Civil War scout, spy and nurse. Sitting on 17 acres, the center will be part of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, a 125-mile self-guided driving tour that wends through 36 significant sites along the Eastern Shore.”

Over March 11 and 12, the parks services invite visitors “to enjoy a weekend of activities exploring the life and legacy of Harriet Tubman on the very landscape where she grew up, formed her ideals and strong family connections, escaped to freedom, and returned to lead her friends and family out of bondage.” Events include reenactments, a creative writing workshop led by National Park Service Centennial Poet Laureate, Dr. Sonia Sanchez, and a presentation and book signing of Bound for the Promised Land: Portrait of an American Hero, by author Dr. Kate Larson. The Bucktown Village Store, a site along the Byway that usually would be open by appointment only, will be open all day on March 10, 11, and 12. According to the Byway website, visitors will receive “a personal tour of the general store from the 1800s from members of the Meredith family, the fifth generation to live in Bucktown, who will discuss Tubman, the store, and life in the 19th century. Visitors will also have a rare opportunity to view Underground Railroad artifacts owned by the family.”

The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center is the second national park bearing Tubman’s name to open in 2017. In January, Tubman’s residence in Auburn, NY, Thompson Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (where she worshiped), and other sites were established as Harriet Tubman National Park. According to USA Today, “the park commemorates [Tubman’s] post-Civil War advocacy for women’s suffrage and other causes” and is “the 414th unit in the National Park System.”