A new visitor center honoring Harriet Tubman opened this weekend in Maryland, where Tubman was born a slave and later became a leading figure on the Underground Railroad.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, in Church Creek, was built on a 17-acre site that preserves landscapes and waterways that would have been familiar to Tubman as a child.
The building is located along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway and offers a view of the surrounding Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. The Maryland Park Service and the National Park Service have partnered to manage the visitor center.
Displays in the center tell Tubman’s remarkable story. She was born a slave in Dorchester County in 1822. She did farmwork, logging and other hard labor in fields and forests, and was repeatedly beaten and whipped by her masters, even as a child.
Tubman ran away from her owners in 1849 but returned repeatedly to Maryland to lead members of her family and others to freedom, about 70 individuals in all. She also served as a spy and a nurse for the Union Army during the Civil War, and led troops in a raid that freed more than 750 slaves.
She settled in Auburn, N.Y., worked for women’s suffrage and established a home there for elderly African-Americans.
The new visitor center houses an exhibit hall, museum store, information desk, research library and restrooms. The building includes state-of-the-art environmentally sustainable elements such as rain barrels, green roofs and bio-retention ponds, which help remove contaminants and sediment from stormwater runoff.