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Harriet Tubman Home Becomes National Historical Park

The Auburn, New York home of Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman has become the 414th unit of the National Park System and will help educate visitors about her life.
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The Auburn, New York home of Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman has formally been established as the 414th unit of the National Park System. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell was joined by U.S. Senators Charles Schumer, Kristen Gillibrand, U.S. Congressman John Kato, as well as community and park partners at a signing ceremony on January 10.

This latest addition to the park system commemorates the work of the fearless Underground Railroad conductor during her later years in life, when she was an active proponent of women’s suffrage, among other causes. The park is in Auburn, New York, where Harriet Tubman lived, worshipped, and cared for family members and other formerly enslaved people who sought a safe haven in the North.

“It is our great privilege to share in the stewardship of two national historical parks devoted to commemorating the life and work of Harriet Tubman,” said Secretary Jewell. “These two parks preserve and showcase a more complete history of one of America’s pivotal humanitarians who, at great personal risk, did so much to secure the freedom of hundreds of formerly enslaved people. Her selfless commitment to a more perfect union is testament that one determined person—no matter her station in life or the odds against her—can make a tremendous difference.”

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A sister park site, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Cambridge, Maryland, was created as a national monument by a Presidential proclamation in 2013. It was designated as a national historical park by Congress in December 2014.

The Thompson Memorial African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church and the Tubman Home for the Aged were thanked on January 10 for their role in the preservation of Harriet Tubman’s home.

“The establishment of this park symbolizes our country honoring Harriet Tubman for her entire life of service as a soldier for God and country,” said Bishop Dennis Proctor, Chairman, Harriet Tubman Home, Inc. and Presiding Prelate of the North Eastern District, AME Zion Church. “As a partnership park it represents the best of the National Park Service to ensure the duality of its resiliency and the goal of diversity. For the Harriet Tubman Home and her beloved AME Zion Church, the park ensures our ability to continue to lift up more dynamically Tubman’s core values of freedom, family, faith, community, justice, self-determination and equality. Lastly, the park designation will spur economic engines of progress for Central New York.”

Senator Schumer, who initiated a study process and championed legislation to establish the park, thinks it will bring tourists.

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“As a New Yorker and an American, I’m deeply proud to see Tubman Park finally become a reality,” Schumer said. “The Tubman Historical Park in Auburn, New York will be a magnet for visitors that will tell the amazing story of Harriet Tubman’s life, an extraordinary American whose story deserves to be shared with our children and grandchildren. This park will serve that solemn purpose and preserve her legacy for countless generations to come.”

“I’m very pleased that the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park has been officially established today and can now move forward as planned,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park will bring families from all over New York and around the world to Central New York to learn about the extraordinary life and legacy of one of the great icons of American history. I was proud to fight for this park in the Senate, and I hope to see more of New York’s rich history recognized by the National Park Service going forward.”

The National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, was helpful in establishing the park. Through a National Park Service Grant, NPF provided the funds to purchase the Parker Street property in Auburn, which will be managed by the National Park Service. There are two structures on the property—the Thompson Memorial AME Zion Church and Rectory.

The church, a modest, two-story, frame structure built in 1891 is directly associated to Harriet Tubman, her family, and many of her supporters from the time. The two-story Rectory is adjacent to the church, and both buildings are across the street from the Fort Hill Cemetery, where Harriet Tubman is buried.

Harriet Tubman’s home, the church, and rectory offer a strong physical basis for telling the story of her years following the Civil War when she was active in the women’s suffrage movement, in the AME Zion Church, and in the establishment of a home for elderly, indigent African Americans.

“Telling a more complete story of our country’s rich history is a huge part of our mission,” said Will Shafroth, President of the National Park Foundation. “By providing the necessary funding to establish this park, we are preserving important places and artifacts related to abolitionist and humanitarian Harriet Tubman. A central purpose of our work is helping more people discover how their unique experiences connect to her life and legacy.”

The National Park Service will host a celebration event this coming spring in Auburn, New York to mark the establishment of the park in the community.

This story was originally published January 15, 2017.