On Juneteenth 2020, the highly anticipated New Jersey Harriet Tubman Museum opened virtually. Yesterday, the museum opened its doors for in-person visitation for the first time in a ceremony marking the end of construction.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony, Governor Phil Murphy announced that he had signed legislation designating the museum the official New Jersey Harriet Tubman Museum. In a statement, Governor Murphy said, “It gives me great pride in announcing that the Howell House in Cape May is now the official Harriet Tubman Museum of New Jersey. Harriett Tubman’s extraordinary efforts helped establish and run the Underground Railroad, and her fearless actions during her lifetime led to the freedom of many. I am proud of the role that New Jersey and Cape May were able to play in her mission to free Black men, women, and children from slavery. This is just one small step in acknowledging the plight and struggle of the Black community, and we will continue to recognize and fight against all forms of racism.”
The New Jersey Harriet Tubman Museum tells the story of the abolitionist’s time in Cape May and the history of abolitionist activism on Lafayette Street. Tubman lived in Cape May in the 1850s, where she worked in hotels and as a cook to fund her missions to free enslaved people. The museum is located on a block that was a hub of anti-slavery activity. The Howell House, which now houses the Harriet Tubman Museum, was originally owned by Philadelphia Quaker George Howell. Howell willed the house to the Macedonia Baptist Church, a historically Black church. The summer home of Stephen Smith, co-founder of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, stood across the street from the Howell House.
The museum is still finishing its exhibits and some aspects of the interiors. Video of yesterday’s ceremony can be viewed on the New Jersey Harriet Tubman Museum’s Facebook page.