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Harriet Tubman center to open in Maryland

Harriet Tubman is pictured in a photograph c. 1860-75. Tubman was born into slavery, but escaped to Philadelphia in 1849, and provided valuable intelligence to Union forces during the Civil War.

AP Photo/Library of Congress

A new site on the Eastern Shore in Maryland marks Harriet Tubman’s journey to freedom and pays tribute to the abolitionist and freedom fighter.

The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center opens March 11th in Church Creek, near the former plantation where Tubman was born. The $21 million park sits on land that Tubman later navigated as a conductor of the Underground Railroad.

Kate Clifford Larson, a consulting historian for the park, said the mission for the site was to tell the truth about Tubman’s life and legacy beyond storybook myths. “She was born the most ordinary of ordinary people in the most extraordinarily awful circumstances and she came out of it. She rose up out of that horrific experience to become an extraordinary person who was a leader among men.”

Harriet Tubman escaped slavery in 1849 by herself using the Underground Railroad network. Tubman returned to Maryland to help guide slaves to freedom. And during the Civil War she planned and led an armed raid in South Carolina that freed over 700 people, in one of the largest emancipation events in American history. Later in life, Tubman was a leader in the suffragette movement.

“She fought for freedom and her family, faith, community,” Clifford Larson said. “She fought for equality and justice and self-determination. Those are all values and equalities that we as Americans hold dear. She fought for them. She’s an American hero.”

The 17-acre national and state park houses an exhibit hall and museum. Free events for the park’s inaugural weekend include a simulated Underground Railroad journey and presentations from Tubman Re-enactor Millicent Sparks.

The visitor center is part of the self-guided 125-mile Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.