Harriet Tubman, in most instances seems larger than life, a heroine whose stature as a conductor on the Underground Railroad freeing slaves from captivity elevates her to a space of stately reverence. While all of that is true and rightly so, if you want to get to know Harriet, take a trip to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway. It’s there that you get to know Minty who became Harriet and was also the woman called “Moses”.
It is in the town of Cambridge at The Harriet Tubman Museum & Education Center that we were able to see a towering mural of Harriet. This is a vibrant Harriet, appearing to be reaching out for the next person that she will pull from the horrors of slavery to freedom. Her face is determined, but not yet weathered by the storms of life and age. The mural was painted by Michael Rosato, a muralist who lives in Dorchester County, Maryland, where Tubman was born and lived in slavery for more than 25 years. During the tour Rosato indicated he wanted to show a younger Harriet as she may have looked during her time as a conductor.
The next stop on the tour leads to the Brodess Plantation. The sprawling plantation with rows and rows of fields and acreage serve as the backdrop for this historic marker for the place where “Minty” was born as a slave, property of her master. It’s an emotional experience and some were moved to tears. The movie digs deeper into this story and it is indeed an outrageous one.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitors’ Center, run collectively by the Maryland State Park Service and the National Park Service is a treasure trove of Harriet history. The building is filled with exhibits that tell Harriet’s story. There’s the statue showing a young, barefoot Minty catching a muskrat in muddy waters while our guide shares that this experience perhaps helped Harriet as she traversed rugged terrain on her escape to freedom.
Being able to see and touch other life-size replicas of Tubman’s baby cradle and the Fodder House where Harriet hid with her family members before she escaped made Harriet more than just a story in a history book but breathed life into the person who was Harriet. The museum is also right next to Blackwater Wildlife preserve which is really in the middle of the swamps where she Harriet conducted her railroad. Looking over the expanse it’s easy to imagine how hard it was to navigate those swamps which were probably immensely more treacherous in Harriet’s day.
The last stop on the journey is the Bucktown General Store. The store has some items that may have been present during Harriet’s time, but the current owner assembled many pieces that are representative of that era. Looking around the store, one can’t help but be transported back in time. However, when the owner shows a weight similar to the one that Harriet was struck with, the viciousness of that time is on full display. It’s this heavy weight that caused Harriet to suffer with seizures.
The trip to Cambridge, Maryland was not only enlightening but inspiring. Harriet Tubman was a real-life “shero.” A trip to the Eastern shore to take this tour is highly recommended.
I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other. -Harriet Tubman
Directed by Kasi Lemmons, HARRIET stars Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn and Clarke Peters. The movie tells the story of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes, whose courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed many as a conductor on the Underground Railrood, HARRIET is in theaters now.