Harriet Tubman:  A Woman of Courage and Vision
Articles, Blog

Harriet Tubman: A Woman of Courage and Vision

August 14, 2019

>>Good evening. I am David Ferriero, the
archivist of the United States, and it’s a pleasure to welcome you to the William G.
McGowan Theater this evening. A special welcome to those who are watching on YouTube for tonight’s
discussion about Harriet Tubman: A Woman of Courage and Vision.
An even warmer welcome to those of you who are watching us on C-SPAN. We are pleased
to present this program in partnership with the National Park Service in celebration of
the upcoming grand opening of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park in
Church Creek, Maryland. Before we get to tonight’s program, I would like to tell you about two
upcoming programs that will take place in this theater. On Thursday, March 2 at 7 p.m.,
a program titled, “The Glass Ceiling, Broken or Cracked?” we will present a bipartisan
group of former congress women to discuss their paths to public service, the challenges
they faced, and the obstacles women still need to overcome. Our partner for this discussion
is the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress. And next Wednesday, March 8 at
noon, author Scott Miller will be here to discuss and sign his new book: Agent 110:
An American Spymaster and the German Resistance in World War II. To learn more about these
and all of our public programs and exhibits consult our monthly calendar of events, there
are copies in the lobby as well as sign-up sheets to receive it by regular mail or E-mail
and you will also find brochures about other National Archives activities. And another
way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National
Archives Foundation. The foundation supports all of our education and outreach activities.
There are applications for membership also in the lobby. And a little known secret that
I keep divulging, no one has ever been turned down for membership in the National Archives
Foundation. (LAUGHTER)
>>During the Civil War, escaped slave underground railroad conductor and abolitionist Harriet
Tubman Davis served the union side as a scout, nurse, cook and spy, for all she endured and
accomplished her life is legendary. Legendary but not legend for the evidence of her deeds
resides in the various archives and manuscript collections and here at the National Archives.
In 1863 Tubman makes an appearance as a witness in the court-martial proceeding, at the time
she was working as a nurse at a contraband camp in the South Carolina, and the court
transcript allows us to hear her in her own words. After the war she received a pension
as the widow of the union Veteran Nelson Davis, who served as a private in the eighth United
States colored infantry. Years after he died Tubman petitioned congress for additional
benefits for her own services outlined in her affidavit as nurse and cook in hospitals,
and as commander of several men, 8 or 9 as scouts during the late war. Congress received
numerous documents and letters supporting Tubman’s claim, and they, along with her affidavit,
are here in the records of the United States House of Representatives. In 1899, congress
passed and the president signed legislation that authorized an increase of Tubman’s pension
to $20 a month for her service as a nurse. Tonight a distinguished panel will examine
the life and legacy of Harriet Tubman, and the ongoing preservation efforts of her Maryland
birthplace. We will begin with a presentation from Marci Wolff Ross, Assistant Director
for Tourism Development at the Maryland Office of Tourism Development in Baltimore, Maryland.
Ms. Ross is filling in for Robert T. Parker listed in your program, but unfortunately
unable to be with us tonight. Then Dr. Ida Jones, university archivist at Morgan State
University, will lead the discussion. Dr. Jones is the university archivist at Morgan
State, her scholarship is evident in numerous publications and speaking engagements as well
as radio and television appearances. She is the author of three books, all biographies
of pivotal figures in African-American history whose lives in Washington, DC have been lesser
known. Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Marci Wolff Ross, Dr. Ida Jones, and the panel
to the stage.(APPLAUSE)>>Good evening. Again, I am Marci Ross. I work for the great State of Maryland in the
Maryland Office of Tourism Development, and I am thrilled to be here tonight to invite
all of you to visit us in Maryland and to discover for yourselves why Maryland is the
most powerful underground railroad storytelling destination on the planet. I am going to take
you through that invitation by sharing some of the progress that we have made over the
last 20 years and throughout the Maryland Underground Railroad Initiative. That initiative
is an effort that is a true collaboration. It’s a collaboration among the public sector
and the private sector, government, nonprofit, for profit, and really, a state-wide representation
of a very passionate constituency who has come to the State of Maryland and said, will
you please help us get this important story told and then share it with the world. So,
I would like to share with you today where we are with some of the projects as part of
our initiative. First and foremost, I would like to share with you information about the
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park. As you can see here, it was
established by President Obama on March 25, coincidentally that’s Maryland day, through
Executive Order after many, many, many years of work in order to get that park established.
It was actually the monument first and then shortly thereafter the national historical
park. The mission, of course, is to protect landscapes and places where — that were important
to Tubman’s life. And as an enslaved child, young woman and freedom seeker in Dorchester
county. And then in order to actually have a national park, the NPS had to acquire land
in that landscape where she was from. This map here just gives you some information
about the boundaries of the national historical park (indicating). This entire landscape was
determined by the National Park Service to be one of the most well preserved and authentic
agrarian landscapes in the country. And as you drive through there and you visit, you
will see that not much has changed since Harriet’s time. As I mentioned earlier, none of this
would have been possible had it not been for wonderful partnerships, collaboration, and
certainly passion, whether it’s the image you see here on the left, which is the Harriet
Tubman museum and home to the Harriet Tubman organization, which has really been the flag
bearer for getting Tubman and underground railroad stories told on the Eastern shore
for many, many years to some of the other attractions, like the Bucktown Village store,
the Dorchester County visitor center, which welcomes people from all over the world, and
others. So, first there was this designation as a
monument, there is actually no statue or monument per se, it was really a mechanism to help
get National Park Service support to help get this important story told. We are in the
process of putting the final touches on a brand new Underground Railroad Visitor Center,
which is a cooperative endeavor between the Maryland Park Service and the National Park
Service. Also, what has come to Maryland with that legislation that established the national
park, is Maryland is now home to the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program.
The Network to Freedom Program is a wonderful opportunity for anybody who would care to
get involved in underground railroad research and help share those stories through designations
of sight program and facilities. It just so happens that right now Maryland has more Network
to Freedom Program members than any other state in the nation. So, just because the
park is established doesn’t mean that the work is over. Beyond getting it established,
they are working on what is known as a foundation document as a planning document to move the
park forward and engage the community. They are also looking at the natural resources
and the cultural landscape in the area with the goal of eventually acquiring more properties
related to Tubman. And they are going to take a look at a visitor study so they can make
sure the information we are providing is good for visitors.
I am going to just skip over these next two slides because a colleague of mine is going
to go ahead and touch base on those in a minute. But what you see here is you see an image
of what the visitor center looks like from the southwestern side. Those buildings have
a shape and a purpose. And you are going to hear a little bit more about that when Chris,
our architect, comes up and speaks about the design of the park. This is another view looking
from the south to the north and into the front door and plaza of the visitor center. Just
the back view, it’s — it’s multilevel, it’s about 15,000 square feet. And what you see
in the picture of the beams are those are beams that have been reused from barns that
have been taken down, so that helped get the center structure its LEED certification. The
park site itself, which is 17.44 acres has an outdoor pavilion for gatherings of up to
150. There is a fireplace out there and lots and lots of picnic tables. To give you a taste
of the interior, I am going to run the slide through, as we call it. There is no sound,
so you have to put up with me walking you, or flying you, through this video. So, this
rendering would be as if you are walking in the front door and the lobby.
And yes, it mostly focuses on Tubman and the underground railroad in Maryland, but because
it’s the home of the Network to Freedom, we have Network to Freedom exhibits, and we also
have orientation exhibits to the Harriet Tubman underground railroad byway, which was designated
one of the best driving tours in the nation in 2008. There is a gift shop, but as you
can see here as a visitor, you are brought figuratively back in time through this gateway
entrance, and what we call, affectionately, the egg. This is a very transformative space.
It’s one that will be filled with images and sound, and the goal is to have all of you
leave your modern world behind and enter into Tubman’s. So, there are really three, maybe
four, specific focuses of the exhibits. What you see here in front of you is you see
a Tubman story early life. And we talk about what it was like to be enslaved in Maryland,
what enslavement meant in Maryland, and what it must have been like for Tubman as a little
girl to have to live through what it is that she lives through. And if you think about
Tubman, you know, she was born African. She was born as a woman, a female. She was born
without any opportunity to have education. And later on in her life she was also disabled.
So, when you think about that at the time and how remarkable she was, it’s — it sets
a great stage for how you can move through the rest of the inside of the park and the
exhibits. We move on to part of the story more known
as the journey and her rescues. The times that she came back. Her self liberation and
her coming back for family and — and she came back to get her parents, and her siblings,
others. But in her heart her ultimate goal at the end was to come back and bring her
sister Rachel and her children to safety. It’s sad to say that Tubman never got to realize
that part of her mission to free people, because Rachel was sold south and was never heard
from or seen again. So, toward the end in the third part of the
exhibit is what we call the journey. And we talk more about the greater context of Tubman,
what she was — faced in the Civil War, later in life. Her work as a humanitarian. And her
life in New York. And then we have — here we are moving down
toward what is known as The Legacy Gallery. We have beautiful stained glass images, and
it’s a really wonderful place for contemplation, and just a rest because if you have ever been
into a storytelling facility like this, sometimes the information that you find can be overwhelming.
We are cruising right by the theater here on the right. And we will take our leave of
the interior of the visitor center. So, as I mentioned, this is really an invitation.
And we would very much like for all of you to join us on Maryland’s Eastern Shore on
March 11 and 12 for the grand opening of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor
Center. There is wonderful programming that’s going to be there. Dr. Kate Clifford Larsen
who wrote Bound for the Promised Land will be there us giving some instruction. Our esteemed
colleague Chris will be there talking about the view north, as well as some other wonderful
programming, not just for adults but for the whole family. And, last, I would like to show
you the landscape beyond the Tubman visitor center. As I mentioned earlier, Maryland is
home to the beginning of the Harriet Tubman underground railroad byway. In Maryland it’s
125 miles of driving that takes you to the places where Tubman actually was born, lived,
sought her freedom and came back to rescue others.
I will say that there is also some fun to have along the way in addition to learning
all of this great history. So, here we go (indicating).
(Music)>>There should be audio here (indicating).
(Music) (Video played)
>>Now, if that isn’t an invitation I don’t know what is.
(LAUGHTER)>>So, thank you very much for allowing me
to share your evening. And I promise you, if you travel to Maryland, it was be transformative.
Thank you very much. (APPLAUSE)>>Good evening everyone. Thank you Honorable David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United
States for your warm introduction and the welcome to your house. I love this space in
the McGowan. This is a warm and intimate theater yet with a respectable sense of plush seats.
I want to also thank Tom Nastick, our logistics guy behind and on deck on everything. And
I’d like to welcome the audience for coming out tonight in the midst of the rain, which
has a level of symbolism, as libation and catharsis on our discussion on Harriet Tubman:
A woman of courage and vision. And we had family, faith and community also in our other
edition we had done in Maryland. Nevertheless, I am here to be your moderator and to introduce
our panel. We have a very distinguished panel that I would like to introduce to you, and
then I would like to give you talking points that we are going to be discussing, and hopefully
you will have some conversation to join with us in the middle. From the far left, your
left, is Marci Ross Wolff. Did I get that right this time, Marci?
>>It’s all good.>>Marci Wolff Ross. She serves as the Assistant
Director of the tourism development at the Maryland Office of Tourism Development. She
leads the program responsible for the management of the state’s customer contact centers, the
development of new regional and state?wide travel products, and the county cooperative
grant program, which annually provides matching grants, those in Maryland listen, matching
grants, to the state’s 23 counties, Baltimore City and Ocean City. She represents the MOTV
on the Capitol region U.S. Board of Directors, the Maryland Heritage Area Authority and numerous
other tourism-related entities. She assisted in identifying sites capable of receiving
$15 million grant awarded to help develop multiple historic tourist destinations throughout
the State of Maryland, including, as you heard, the Harriet Tubman underground railroad bypass.
For her work in the field of heritage tour, she has been honored by a number of organizations,
the Maryland association of destination marketing organization, the White House conference on cooperative conservation, and the African-American tourism council of Maryland. It was under
her leadership that Maryland was the first in the nation to produce the statewide national
underground Network to Freedom guide. To her left is Dr. Cheryl LaRoche. She is an archeologist
and assistant research professor in the department of anthropology at the University of Maryland,
College Park. She has researched and mapped African-American history and underground railroad
sites for the past 17 years. Her work has led to the call for a new field of study,
African-American critical geography. She served as the lead author in the cultural landscape
consultant for the 2009 Harriet Tubman special resource study environmental assessment. She
also consulted for the byway project, and participated in the Tubman National Monument
Scholars roundtable. Dr. LaRoche serves as a project historian for the cultural expressions
exhibition for the Smithsonian’s new museum on African American History and Culture. The
society’s historical archeology has awarded Dr. LaRoche the John L. Cotter award for her
exemplary work in bringing a multiple disciplinary approach to the study of African-American
archeology. Her first book, Free Communities and the Underground Railroad, Country of Resistance,
shameless plug I just got my copy, I encourage all of you to get yours, who follows her work,
we celebrate her. To her left is Chris Elcock. He serves as the project manager for the Harriet
Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center. He is a senior associate with GWWO Architects,
a nationally recognized Baltimore-based firm specializing in the design of visitor and
interpretive centers. Chris was responsible for coordinating all the concepts, design
and construction for a team, in addition to architects, engineers, landscape architects,
marketing consultants, videographers and designers, so it’s tantalizing on all fronts. Dedicated
to this project since 2008, Chris’s immense passion for the project, one that is sure
to be a standout of his career helps to drive the new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad
Visitor Center — and when you hear him talk about it – you will really be enveloped by
what his concept was — to its successful completion. With 20 years of experience, he
currently leads a team of 12 architects on projects that focus on interpretation, education
and the performing arts. And the GWWO Architects, Incorporated are nationally recognized specialists
in designing cultural and educational facilities within historically, culturally or environmentally
sensitive context. Since their founding, the Baltimore-based firm has been involved in
the design of over 50 visitor centers, museums and interpretive facilities, among which are
the George Washington Mount Vernon Ford orientation center, and in Baltimore, once again, the
Fort McHenry national monument historic shrine visitor education center. To his left is the
illustrious colleague and friend of mine Elizabeth Clark-Lewis. Dr. Elizabeth Clark-Lewis is
an award-winning historian of the United States and founding director of the public history
program at Howard University. She has taught courses on African-American women, women in
the United States and the history of African-Americans, history in the District of Columbia and history
of African-Americans in Pennsylvania. As the director of public history program, she has
offered courses on museums and archives, historic preservation and a seminar in field studies.
She has taught students about genealogical research, family genealogy and courses on
related themes. She has published books and articles on various subjects among which is
First Freed Emancipation in the District of Columbia, and her award-winning book, Living
in Living out, African-Americans domestics in Washington, DC. If I had it I would hold
it up. You can definitely look for that and I will repeat it: Living in Living out, great
book on domestic workers. She’s written over a dozen articles on women, race, household workers and related subjects which have appeared in a number of professional journals. She has served as project
director and producer of a PBS documentary, which is an outgrowth of Living in, called
Freedom Bags. It’s an award-winning film, won the Oscar of show award. She has been
supported by numerous research grants from the National Park Service, the National Endowments
for the Arts and the DC Humanity Council. So before I start with my panelists, I have
another book I have to share as a fellow archivist and educator, this is by Milton Sernett called,
Harriet Tubman, Myth, Memory and History. It’s a very good synopsis for those of us
who are academics or lay academics, or just are simply interested in knowing how do you write history. Historians need archives. Here at the National Archives are voluminous records on the Civil War, I
worked in the Civil War program and they have jackets on that. But you really have to delve
into the original resource, the primary sources that we all know, history 101. For persons such as Harriet Tubman and her contemporaries, they were not allowed to be written resources, they were not allowed to learn to read, so we don’t call them illiterate,
they are nonliterate people because they did not have the capacity to exercise that potential.
So when we look at someone like that, how do they document themselves, how to they explain
themselves. We have to use other sources and other means in which to do so. In this, the book goes through the academic challenge to try to capture that story, and Dr. LaRoche does
an excellent job to reconvene and remeet with those things that we are very much pleased
now that we can use the ecology, the landscape, along with the physical structures and the
visual history to write and recreate the world in which Harriet Tubman lived. Those of you
who were outside standing in the rain with me, it was very cathartic, and almost somewhat
mystical as libation being poured from heaven by our ancestors. She was very much an African
person. Her parents were slaves, she was a slave. There was a very strong Africanism
in the culture that was in the rural parts of America. It was not foreign for her to
understand herself in terms of using constellations and stars, to use visions and dreams, to use
spiritual entities to help guide her north. She had no fear of being recaptured. And she
made multiple trips back. So when we look at Harriet Tubman, we should see her as a
prism, refracting the light of the enslaved person, the slave woman, the person desiring
to be free, the person who sees herself as an individual but also part of a community,
and representing us as Americans. She was an American citizen. Although a proto American
citizen, because it wasn’t written in until the 14th Amendment. But nevertheless, we celebrate
her as a hero, a courageous person and someone that we can see as a prism through which we
can refract light. Of course, from Morgan State — I have to bring in Morgan State – they
opened the dorm in the 1940’s called the Harriet Tubman dorm for our female students. And on
commemoration of that dorm a student spoke and she wrote: Morgan State College is therefore
happy to thus honor her and the women are proud to reside in the building made sacred
by the name of this heroic character, whose example should be an inspiration not only
to the women of the school and of the State of Maryland, but to all women seeking to live
fully and to register worthy of this day and generation. So that’s who she means to me,
and I am going to ask the panelists to discuss in three to five minutes how they touch Harriet
Tubman, and how they would like for you to join them as we explore her life. Thank you,
and get ready for questions and answers once we are finished. Thank you.
(APPLAUSE)>>Who wants to go first? Chris, you want
to go first?>>Sure.
(LAUGHTER)>>You needs the slides or —
>>I will get up in a second. So, gosh, as an architect, a project like this is just
an extraordinary honor. And for my life’s work and for the work of the firm, we do what
we call story-based design. We love projects where there is a story to be told. And then
one day the opportunity to work on something like this happens. And just an extraordinary
honor. The designs for a project like this is something where we don’t start with the
pen, we start with our ears. And for us the — when the state first advertised that they
were looking for architects to submit qualifications to do this project, we came down to see the
site, and it was really interesting. It was just this abandoned — 17 acres of abandoned
farmland and protected woodlands to the north. We knew to the north of the site was property
that was owned by the fisheries and wildlife. But just south of that for 17 acres just flat,
nothing. And most people — I heard most people talking about the fact, well, gosh, there
is nothing here. It’s — it’s just a blank canvas. And for us everything was there. Everything
was already there for us. You had an empty site, and you had the — you had to direct
north, these woods. And it made us think why would anybody at any given time just get up
and leave. What held us back. So, many months of hard work, and later we settled on this
concept. I hope everybody can see, I will try to see if it will work.
So, we actually developed four concepts, but this one was the one chosen, it’s called,
the view north. And so, north is up, so these are the woods that were there that we wanted
to exploit. And everything about this, we worked really closely as architects with the
landscape architects and the exhibit designers, because we felt it all had to come together.
So essentially we start you at the southern most point of the site and then we take you,
even while you are in your vehicle, on a journey north.
So, this is sort of your first orienting principle. You realize then that the buildings, there
are two buildings that splay open like this. So you can drop off as necessary, or if not,
you can take the shortcut loop and park. But even then when you leave your car, you are
traveling north, and then you slip over into this direction towards the interpretive center.
The entire site is made up of — you see several different tones of green on this site, the
17 acres, and it’s deliberate because what we wanted to do was make sure that we reinforce
this view north. We do that with the landscape design by having a series of grasses at different
heights. What we are doing here is exploring different
notions of concealment. Again, this is the underground railroad story. So, this area
is the lawn, which is kept at the, what you would consider the traditional height that
you have grass, three, four inches. And then on either side then we begin to change that
height to knee high and then waist high. So as you stand here, even as a — when you first
come to visit the site, you may see people walking across and they are going to be crossing
into a memorial garden at various levels of exposure. You are going to be in the field
at the same time that we saw this site back in 2008 and you will be able to look to the
north. But other times you are going to be amongst trees and amongst grasses at different
heights. And at every — at certain intervals, I would say, you will notice that you have
to make a certain decision. You have to make a decision to turn here or turn here. Ultimately
we put you back on, you know, for — we deliver you back safely to where you started.
(LAUGHTER)>>But you have this opportunity to make these
choices. So you have this opportunity to be exposed, fully exposed, partially exposed,
completely concealed. And it gives you an opportunity to, we hope, even when you are
outside, to think about those decisions — and think about people had to make these decisions,
and that it was not a convenient thing just to head north. Who could you trust? Who should
you trust? And who — you know, who may report on you? The visitor center itself is — we
actually split the building into two. I mean, they wanted a building. So, the business of
running the park is on this site. This is where — this is sort of the public site.
So this is essentially more — this building is really a nonbuilding, because the park
service, the National Park Service and the Maryland Park Service are located here, and
so just essentially it’s just a wall to frame that view north for — frame that view north
for the visitor. And then because it’s a park and there are some recreational aspects, this
is the area where we de-couple sort of the more serious aspects of the park to the areas
of recreation. I will go forward a little bit and explain to you again, this is another
— because the story was so rich with possibilities and rich with information, we wanted, again,
to incorporate as much of that as we could. Even with how you would circulate this building.
So, this is just a blowup of the exhibit building. And many of us understand the notion and understand
that, okay, you travel north towards freedom. What was interesting with Tubman’s story was
that she came back. And so we can prove she came back 13 times. We have official documentation
for 13 returns. So you come here into the lobby, you start, and you think you are just
going to head north, and the building it goes from darker to lighter. There’s more light
at the top than there is when you start to experience the exhibit. But, again, we don’t
just send you on a north-bound mission. You are going to get pulled across. And we understand
that the escapes were never — if the escapes were linear, you could be caught much easier.
So you will go through this story and you learn all about the underground railroad from
the Maryland context, and then what did we do? We take you the route she did, we return
you back. You come back more lighted and ready to go again. And so, those are just some of
the examples that, where we talk about using the story and using the person and using information
that we learned to guide us with the architecture. We are avid readers, architects are readers
as well. And so we spent a lot of time culling through Bound for the Promised Land that was
mentioned before by Kate Larsen. But we also spent time with another book by James McBride,
Song Yet Sung, that was fictional. He talked — he came to the Eastern shores, he came
for a day, he changed his plans and spent four more days on the byways and then produced
this book. And it’s a fictional story of this — of a Tubman-like character who had these
premonitions. And so the landscape is just so incredibly transportive that we were able
to take — hopefully able to take all of that inspiration and bury that within — imbed
it within the project. I think I will stop there and give everybody else a chance to
talk. (APPLAUSE)
>>Thank you all for coming out this evening in this wet, soggy day. We really appreciate
you being here. I am going to talk to you about something a little different. I would
expect that most of you already know the facts of Tubman’s life. And so I am not going to
spend a lot of time talking about the trips or talking about what she did. I want to talk
to you and weave three different threads together. I have been living with Harriet Tubman for
such a long time that I have been thinking about her in more abstract ways. And that’s
what I want to say to you tonight. I want you to understand a different way of thinking
about this woman and thinking about her history. And I want us to think about what she means
for the modern era. My students are always like, look, professor, how can I use it? Why
are you telling us this? History has to be useful, that’s the way our students think
about it. And I want to lead you with a useful history of Harriet Tubman. Why is she relevant
right now? I am going to also put her life in the larger context of black history. Why
is it important to talk about her in the context as we wrap up Black History Month? We are
going to talk about that a little bit as well. So, what does she mean for the modern era?
Why should we care, besides calling her a hero. What does that actually mean? We know
that Tubman’s live exemplified moral courage, that the things that she did took something
beyond what ordinary people have. Most of us may have thought about doing heroic things,
but maybe we faltered. Not only did she have moral courage but that’s dependent on having
fine moral character. These are things that we do not usually apply
when we talk about people held in slavery. Sometimes I will give a talk, and people will
look at me and say, you are talking about slaves, right? Yes. I am talking about human
beings who had many of the same kinds of qualities that we look to for people who are exhibiting
much greater capacity. And yet Tubman is there doing things that
are unbelievable in my mind, and as we think about ourselves, we can draw some examples
for ourselves and for our leaders, about stepping forward with the same moral courage that Tubman
displayed in the face of injustice. When you are faced with difficult decisions, do you
have the courage to step forward as she did. These are things that really resonate with
me as I think about her. You know, she escaped not once but twice, and the first time she
left, her brothers made her return. They lost their courage. We know that courage is fleeting.
We know that it can stay with us at one point and leave us the next. Tubman knew that, and
she carried a pistol, because when your courage left you, she pulled out the gun and said,
if my leadership will not get you there, this gun will. You will not be going back. She
understood however that we are weak at times and when we are weak and when we are perhaps
afraid to go forward, she needed something to encourage you to move through.
So, she knew that she had to build courage when our courage failed us. This is human
nature. She knew how to lead when you lost the ability
to lead yourself. When you lost your courage and your hope. If her personal assurance couldn’t
get the job done then surely the pistol would. And she had a deep faith in God, and often
that’s been characterized by historians as superstitions, that she had all of these — it
was treated very lightly. Harriet Tubman had a personal relationship with God, and anybody
who reads her narrative and understands her story knows that she was in direct dialogue
with the creator. And much of what she was able to do was because
of her unshakable faith that God had put her here to do something important and she followed
through. She often said that she told God she didn’t want to do these things and God
came back time and again said, no, Harriet I want you. So, she also followed that mandate
and fulfilled it. The other piece of her life is around leadership. She is not a person
that is going to — if you go to central casting to look for leadership, she is not showing
up. She is a woman, she is a black woman in the 19th Century. That should rule her out
for any form of leadership considering the history of African-Americans in this country.
She is barely 5 feet tall, she is unable to read or write. And yet she leads scores of
people out of slavery, no one ever catches her, people with far greater resources, far
more money, far more opportunity to track her down never caught her. So, you have to
have a lot of respect, at least I do, for this woman. On her very first trip, her first
trip, imagine this, she has escaped twice, once when brother made her come back — her
brothers made her come back and then a second time successfully. Can you imagine that the
very next trip she takes her niece, her husband, a six-year-old and infant out of slavery.
And I always say, I don’t know about you, but anybody who has ever traveled more than
15 minutes with a six-year-old you know — (LAUGHTER)
>>– that this has got to be some incredible feat this woman has done. I think about
it all the time. How can you escape with this six-year-old and these people? This is on-the-job
training for Harriet Tubman. Her leadership shows courage in the face of impossible circumstances.
And I want you to understand that just because you are being led, doesn’t mean that you are
experiencing leadership. We often confuse the rule of power and might with leadership,
but it has nothing to do with either. Tubman showed a courage, moral fiber and an understanding
of how to bring people forward when she had few of the things that we would say are important
for leadership. And the last thing that I want to talk about is how this history is
relevant for black history. You know, black history also like Tubman in some ways has
been treated quite lightly, sound bites, facts, you know, black history moments, it’s a month
and then we are finished. And yet, if we take that history much more seriously, if we examined
the fundamental messages inside of black history, without all of the trappings of power and
status or even education that often muddies the water when we are talking about leadership,
we understand that black history has a great, deep, important lesson for all of us to learn.
Once we get away from thinking about slaves and all of the ways in which black history
has been maligned. For all of the moral lessons that our society want to learn that we derive
from Greek tragedies or Aesop fables, they are all available inside black history. You
do not have to go to the Greeks. You know, you talk about rolling a rock up the hill
>>We have other stories in there that we can think about in terms of black history.
We need to go deeper. We need to apply the higher ordered thinking as we examine the
qualities of her life, her leadership, her moral authority, her endurance, her perseverance,
her fortitude, her compassion, her altruism. She is one of the world’s great humanitarians.
All of these qualities are embodied inside of Tubman’s life. I invite you to think about
her and to think about black history with a renewed depth, and with a much greater understanding that there is so much that you can derive for your own life from studying this woman’s
history and from studying black history. Thank you.
(APPLAUSE)>>This building is so important for me and
a number of others, because a number of years ago, I won’t say how many, I was very young
and we were doing what was considered impossible. African-American family history. And because
of this building, I was able to chronicle an enslaved little girl who came at age 8
just after the American revolution. I was able to document her three sons, the oldest
of which was Peyton, who would have three wives and 33 children in total. It was so
important that these records were here and that these records literally helped me reframe
my own family history, and would lead to the creation of the African-American historical
and genealogical society. As one of the founders, we looked to people like Tubman in the wider
world issue. We also were grounded in our own family’s stories. Tubman, like the women
in my family, three generations of which were enslaved, and again, these records here helped
me document their lives. Tubman was a woman who was direct and serious, and has been a
national symbol for African-American women. People like me grew up hearing about her passing
it on to, I have a lovely God daughter, Monica Blackstone Toten, who I remember her reading
stories like this, down to my own daughter and granddaughter. But Harriet Tubman, like
a fellow Marylander, Frederick Douglass, is regarded as a far reaching leader of enormous
and enduring influence. Her long life allowed her to transcend simply being a personality.
Her life was one of empowerment, and it has inspired African-Americans and others to learn
from the world over what was it like for this woman and others from that day to this.
There is subtle analyses about everything that Harriet Tubman touched during her years
in Maryland in particular. The National Park Service loves to talk about a period of significance.
So, keeping it in that period of significance, we can understand that Harriet Tubman’s story
required a masterful blend of scholarship and public history. Public history being the
program that I directed at Howard University, we are comfortable with scholars reading books,
but it’s important for us to get out and take the history to the wider audience. One of
my Ph.D. graduates. (LAUGHTER)
(APPLAUSE)>>This ground-breaking park creates a new
way of understanding. This wonderful landmark figure and the story of her courageous life,
Kelly Smith wrote about the pseudoscience of the era that focused on African-American
women and the weaknesses, and even included African-Americans. But more than anything
else, Harriet Tubman helps us understand that it was strength that would carry her forward.
Frequently, when you teach students, they immediately talk about revenge. Why didn’t
people strike out and take different options. Harriet Tubman’s story helps us understand
how she pushed for equality and opportunity rather than revenge. And she made it work
during her many, many, many, many travels back to take people into freedom and her push
for liberation. The tension between property, which she was, and liberty which she always
sought was always very, very serious. She always went back into Maryland to help people
escape, but she was also unwilling to accept this system, she — she literally indicted
this enslavement system and the conduct of its owners. She refused to accept these concocted
stories about the happy, enslaved person. What she did was not only in her life reflect
it, she at the end of her life even wrote about it. So that it was clear the message
was lucid what history really was for her. As I said, one of the things that public historians
do is to take the story wider. And Howard University has a grant that goes beyond Harriet
Tubman, this individual, and helps us to center her in this wider community. One person that
I discovered was a man William Calderhead, who had been an American Revolutionary War
soldier. And like every soldier he received a land grant in lieu of pay. He immediately
sold it. I was reading his obituary, it was so moving. He immediately sold it. And in
spite of his many acts of bravery he said the most important thing for him it do was
to go back to Caroline County. And he lived out his life in Dorchester. What it tells
us, is that there are many people who like Tubman whether free or enslaved thought it
was very important to return to this area. And why do they return? This whole issue of
cultural landscapes is so important. I had the ability to go to the site when it was
evolving, it is so moving because the cultural landscape helps us understand how the environment
can influence and shape an individual. A cultural landscape can be associated with a person
or an event. It can be thousands of acres or a tiny homestead. It can be grand, small,
as I said, a park, a garden, a cemetery a campus and much more. Collectively, cultural
landscapes are works of art. Works of art. Narratives of culture and expressions of an
identity. One of the most important and endearing cultural landscapes it’s — are found in North
Carolina. The boxed pines of North Carolina. An African-American not only escaped there
for freedom, but after freedom, they worked there, removing the tar and the substances
from the trees. One of the things that was unbelievable to me, being a person who evolve
from enslaved person in Virginia, was these V’s that they put on all these trees and as
they pulled this sap forward, it created not only an economic base, but an important cultural
landscape and a natural resource that is so important for us today. Just as we see those
marks on the trees, just as I learned the footprints left for me by Peyton Johnson and
this little girl Winny, we see that Harriet Tubman went over mountains and hills, plains,
and most importantly, used the stars to guide herself and her people to freedom. But it
wasn’t just this one group that she took. It is so wonderful when you are at the site
to see how the site helps you understand this journey that each of us take and how each
of us move in our own way to freedom, justice and a new sense of liberty. Thank you very
much. (APPLAUSE)
>>I would like to ask my co-panelist Marci, if you can explain to us how the area in Dorchester
County preparing for us in terms of the national regional visitorship that will be coming and
trafficking though. I saw pictures of destination sites and some chuckles in the audience, making
light, but we have to make it an enjoyable experience. So can you Talk about how on the
ground in the community Maryland tourism and the parks, state and federal, are working
to make that happen?>>Sure. And just to step back in time a little
bit, July of this year, the city of Cambridge which is really the gateway city to Tubman’s
homeland and her birth place, burned. It was a city filled with hate and it was a city
filled with sadness. And it was a — very much part of a divided community. So, for
literally 50 years later to have flipped that on its head, took work, not only by governmental
institutions, but it took drive and determination by the people of Dorchester and Caroline Counties
and all over Maryland’s Eastern Shore. So, it’s a large responsibility to host visitors,
visitors that are from close by and far away and from across oceans. So, we have prepared
by — some obvious things. We have the wonderful visitor center that will open. We have the
driving tour, taking people beyond the walls and puts them in that storytelling landscape
in a way that isn’t done in many other places. And what I think is the most remarkable is
how we prepared is that we have done some workforce development training, we have run
tour guide training programs. We had a class of 25. We work with our partner institution,
the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. And we had a professor there help write the
curriculum. And we offered this training class to Dorchester and Caroline County residents
only. Those are the two counties in Maryland that are host and home to the Harriet Tubman Underground byway. We felt it was very important to give the people of Maryland’s Eastern Shore the
first opportunity to take this type of training, because we really wanted to empower them to
take the story to the next level, and if they chose, become step on guides or museum docents,
or independent storytellers that they had the opportunity to do that. Not only have
we invested in infrastructure of the built kind, we have invested in people who are willing
to take the time to learn more and share the story. As we get close to the opening of the
visitor center, we have taken the training to the next level. We launched what we are
calling a certified business host program. Any business that will be affected by people
coming in to learn more about Tubman we are asking them to do a few simple things. Watch
a video that talks about the importance of hosting visitors from around the world, and
in particular on the Eastern Shore, sometimes it’s not so welcoming to people from the outside.
So, we wanted to make sure that if somebody came and they weren’t dressed the way they
were perceived to be dressed or they had an accent or they got frustrated, believe it
or not, with the farm equipment that rolls through the agrarian landscape that the people
of — the people of Dorchester and Caroline County had an opportunity to understand that
when you invite people from all over the world to come and see what you have to offer, there
is an opportunity to tell them stories, and if you choose, grow your businesses or bring
them into your museum and help continue on the story. So it’s a very — it’s a relatively
easy certification to have. So not only do we want the residents and the business people
of the Eastern Shore to capitalize on this opportunity, we want to make sure that people
that are coming from near and far are welcomed into that community. Because I will tell you,
thinking back 50 years ago, it wasn’t always the case.
>>That’s a very good portrait of American small town. We have microphones on either
side of the aisle, so if people want to start to line up for questions we can do so. I am
glad to ask the panelists more questions. We really want to make this conversational
between you as well as us on stage. So I am glad to take another round of questions for
the panelists, and if you have a question you are welcome to go to either one of the
microphones, please make your way there and we will get ready for questions and answers.
So for our second round of questions in terms of the panelists and your classrooms, how
do you think that can be for a student to learn, both a domestic and international students,
what kind of takeaways should they have in terms of not only college level, I mean high
school, elementary school, because we have to grow into this knowledge and sensitivity
in a rather fraught informational landscape we are in right now. So how do you see it
working for elementary and high school students, both domestic and international?
>>One of the things that when I talk about an African-American critical geography, when
you think about it, we should have had this a long time ago because so much of the experience
of African-Americans is imbedded in the landscape. And because literacy is withheld, we don’t
have the luxury of having all of the books and things. The Tubman landscape was one of
the places where I really began to develop my sort of landscape theory. And when you
think about how African-Americans are interacting with the land, particularly the underground
railroad and escape, that this is a way for elementary school students to learn geography,
to learn math, to learn orientation about astronomy. When you think about all of the
different components this is how, when I talk about using African-American history in the
fuller, in a richer way, this is one of the things that I am talking about. So, when you
get to the high school level in college level and even now, I am working with another government
agency to look at how do we map many of these African-American experiences. What I am finding
is that even there, there are — we are woefully lacking in maps that actually help us understand
our world and our geography. So there are really opportunities across the board to understand
this critical geography in a new way, and the landscape of the Eastern Shore is a great
laboratory to begin to talk about it. When you look at Tubman’s estate you know Sebret
— if you know who Sebret is, he mapped the underground railroad, he doesn’t accurately
map much of the African-American involvement in the underground railroad. What we find
is that map makers do not necessarily think about some of the episodes to use for cartographic
information. So there is a lot to learn.>>I would like to say traveling in the last
summer, my grandchildren Amari and Ermira, ages 10 and 7, they were captivated by the
fact that there was this inseparable connection and inseparable ties between the people and
the land on the Eastern Shore. And I think, just as I said with the African-Americans
who in North Carolina were, in fact, marking these trees, it makes us think and it made
me think what are the ways that we can find the markings that were left by Harriet Tubman
on her cultural landscape. What is this vital fluid that just as it flowed through the trees
and they were getting it for sap, what is this vital fluid that we feel it’s palpable
when you are on the Eastern Shore. Not just adults, children feel it. So, I think there
is a vitality and an energy that is so important. And as they helped me understand, humans are
always transforming the landscape. They are always transforming their environment. Whether
it’s building new houses, people, or even as my granddaughter was always reminding us,
the rain forest issue. But I think that when we understand how this collection of land
forms so powerfully resonates from people who visit there, it is just a very moving
experience. And in particular, I am so glad that the architects and those responsible
allowed it as we were moving into evening to allow just everything in that landscape
to speak to you. And they were understanding and looking at the stars and seeing how all
of this — it’s a way of studying the environment and appreciating the environment in a park
setting. And they have done such a masterful job. It’s wonderful and I hope everyone will
take the time to visit.>>Thank you. Sir, I call you first.
>>Good evening, everybody, I want to thank the panelists that was great information so
far. I am just curious about, we talked about critical geography and we talked about trees
and land, I am wondering about water. And so, the role of maybe rivers, streams, those
kinds of aspects of the landscape and what role they play in the underground railroad,
one, and then for Harriet Tubman as well.>>I’m sorry, mention your name since we are
going to be on C-SPAN.>>I’m sorry, my name is Reggie Chapel I am
with the National Park Service. I am the chief of the office of partnerships and philanthropy.
>>Thank you. You want to take that Cheryl?
>>I can start. I am sure Marci, you all probably have something
to say because, I mean, Dorchester, and we are talking about the Eastern Shore. We are
talking about the Chesapeake Bay. We are talking about the Choptank, we are talking about rivers.
Remember, that you cannot, except for a small strip between Maryland and Pennsylvania, you
have to cross a major body of water to get out of slavery. Whether it’s the Ohio, whatever,
there is going to be a river. For Tubman, because she worked on the waterways for so
many — so much of her life, she had an intimate relationship with water. She understood it.
It’s much faster, trust me, to travel by water than on foot. And so a lot of these trips
that she is taking, the waterway is involved. I have been on the waterway tour with a great
friend, John Crichton, who has passed now. I have been on the Columbia river tour in
South Carolina. Tubman had a very deep and important understanding with the water. And
so there is book called Black Backs, and in that he spends a lot of time talking about
the relationship to water. And I am sure my fellow panelists have even more to say. There
is so much more to say on the topic, it’s a subject onto itself.
>>Sure is. When you look at that video, the travel video, you see how much the water plays
into the travel experience, along the Chesapeake and up the rivers. And again, to get out on
the water and to see the land from the water, is a completely different perspective than
experiencing the water from the land. And for me, personally, that represents changing
perspectives dramatically, because when you do that, you change the way that you understand
things. It’s like we have all been taught that American history starts when the colonists
got here. And if you flip that on its head and you look from the west to the east, it’s
a very, very different story than when you look from our eastern part of the United States
to the west. So, I urge you when you come and visit, because I know you all will, to
get out and take a kayak tour, get on the Dorchester that you saw there and get your
narrative of what it was like to be on a skipjack during Tubman’s time.
>>I just want to add one more thing. Escaping with children, it’s much more arduous on land.
If you get him on — we have escape out of Dorchester where a family of six leaves on
Good Friday, and they have a head start because all of Easter weekend, of course, people are
not paying attention. And you know, it’s not until Monday or Tuesday that people realize
they are gone. They took a family of six out of slavery, almost a hundred percent positive
that they went by boat.>>Question here, to my left?
>>Yes. I am Sharon Mitchell, and I would like to thank the panel and the Archives for
having such a wonderful evening for us. My question is about continuing to understand
Harriet Tubman’s role as she moved out of Dorchester and you know Southern Maryland,
up into Baltimore which is where I am from. And, you know, a couple of — some years back,
I met Dr. LaRoche when we were trying to look at underground railroad sites in Brooklyn,
which really thought they had no part of the underground railroad that turned out to be
quite contrary, thanks to Dr. LaRoche’s approach to looking at things. In Baltimore, I was
consulting with a church about a property they had acquired and met with the congregants
about what they would like to see happen and what I kept hearing was about their homes
that were a part of the underground railroad. And this property was as well. And we hear
stories and we start to see, especially since I have read Dr. LaRoche’s book, activity that
has been nondocumented in traditional terms of Harriet Tubman’s activity in Baltimore.
So, I am curious if you have a way to start helping that get integrated into the site
down at the Eastern Shore. Like, how — how does she bring people up through the city
and further north?>>It’s very important, and one of the persons
in here, Dr. Betty Gardner did a wonderful study on the impact of Baltimore. And there
are a number of studies that help us understand that as a city, a city that has a great deal
of water and activity, and a large free African-American community, there was this interface. One of
the realities of public historians are constantly pushing against are the stipulations that
in some ways are being imposed on sites for the underground railroad. For example, we
worked on a site that an escaped individual said they had hidden in the cemetery, and
it was documented in several other narratives. But, unfortunately, it didn’t meet the criteria
of those who are certifying underground railroad sites. And I think this is going to be, there
is going to be a tension. Because there are many ways, as you are seeing, and you are
experiencing, many ways that people involved themselves with the underground railroad that
may not meet this somewhat for me, as a public historian, artificial test. But the people
know the history. The people leave the oral records, and there has to be a way of getting
these stories in, and then allowing these stories, like the story of my own family,
this was about a year before Roots, to stand on its own. That there were four living relatives
of this slave that were telling history. Nowhere else — eventually, I was able in the Virginia
archives, to certify some of it. But if none of it ever was corroborated when will we let
these stories stand on their own. I know the park service and other organizations that
are stipulating and creating these, and there are very important ways of documenting and
affirming, but people running away didn’t leave a neon sign. They were breaking the
(APPLAUSE)>>Exactly. And so, I think that as this new
way of understanding and being sensitive to history, as history changes, and is more embracing,
I am hoping that more of these homes and churches and other environments that African — including
cemeteries where people would hide during the day, and then they ran at night. How in
the world are we going to expand our sense of how this run away story has to include
more nontraditional sources and resources? The waterway, the lakes, we have to be able
to look for footprints in some cases that don’t exist. But we have to be tenacious enough
to believe the stories of the people and build on those stories, not simply saying these
are the stipulations you meet them. There have to be new ways of doing this.
>>You know, one of the things that I really feel like I pushed the envelope around some
of the criteria. And so that critical geography and using the landscape, that — that’s evidence
if you look in a new way. I also have been pushing successfully, I would say, in talking
about how to use oral history effectively. And I jokingly say everywhere I go, this is
what I know about oral history, there is going to be something that is wrong. The fact is
wrong, the name is wrong, you got the wrong date, it’s going to be, as we say, jacked
>>There is going to be something the matter with the history. However, the event actually
happened. And so, with history, historians find one fallacy, they like to throw out the
whole argument. If I find an oral history that’s completely accurate I know it’s not
what I want. I am looking for that tension. So there are ways to use oral history responsibly.
It’s not the right word effectively, there are ways to use the landscape effectively
and trace the oral stories and believe the people when they tell you. So there is a tendency
to tacitly call people liars because we don’t accept the history they give us. I see a number
of young people here, if you are looking for a great viable topic to study, Harriet Tubman and
Baltimore is it. If you look in case books she glosses over Baltimore. She bases strategy
out of Baltimore, so anybody who needs a dissertation. (LAUGHTER)
>>Or you know, a senior seminar paper, Harriet Tubman and Baltimore is it.
>>To add to that with the church in particular, if you look at the congregation is composed
of the business owners, other things connected with the (inaudible) you have a bridge of
organizational connection with Morgan State and the Methodists so you make the contacts,
even though they are thin threads, they still lay the human bridges and you build that.
We know Douglass was in Baltimore and he hid among the free population, and of course used
that to go north. We have documentary evidence on that just citing the human bridges (inaudible).
I would like to work with you on that.>>I would like to add one point. There are
a number of scholars, in particular who I had oral histories under (inaudible) who studied
at the Wisconsin under the world’s best historians the doctor said people will write a lie in
many cases quicker than they tell a lie. Every written document is not correct either.
>>That’s right.>>So, I ask people to give oral history as
much respect as the written document and work to corroborate. But don’t necessarily say
they just don’t know what they are talking about. Because there is a lot of evidence,
important evidence that gets missed because people want, again, those sure stipulations
and the in a sense easy way of researching. But I invite people as you are doing, talk
to people. Go into communities, and understand those vital resources wherever they are. And
new ways obituaries. There are all kinds of records that you can use that help you understand
what you are hearing but at least be sensitive and be open to listening.
>>And if I may just ask, is the Maryland tourism organization doing anything in that
regard?>>With Baltimore?
>>Yes.>>Well, we have in the past and we are going
to really reinvigorate efforts all across the state. I introduced the initiative adds
the Maryland Underground Railroad Initiative, because we had an opportunity to get stories told
statewide. So, we are going to head back out into the communities and reinvigorate our
effort to get more stories told, the more stories there are, the more stories there
are to share. I think that that is really important. Because that’s really what inspires
people to travel. I know this sounds hokey, but we really want to keep the efforts moving
forward to get the stories told, you know, in time for 2020, which is the release of
the 20. So being a crack tour, crack tourism marketer as I am, we want to use those opportunities
to be in the media in a positive fashion to tie one of those milestones. I am happy to
give you my card.>>Great.
>>Before you leave tonight. And I will certainly, you know, keep you posted, if you want to
get in touch with me, we would love to have further conversations with anybody who is
willing to come to the table.>>Thank you.
>>Thank you for your patience, sir.>>Okay. (inaudible) I am pleased to be here.
As I listen to you talk about alternative sources, the President is a big manufacturer
of alternative sources. You want to be careful how you put that out there.
(LAUGHTER)>>I am serious. As I hear you talk about
the impact of the environment, and I listen to (inaudible) the tourism talk about flipping
it on its head, to what extent is the experience of African-Americans and slavery
been kind of flipped on its head by the kind of environment that we keep people in?
Where my — if you look in most areas where the underground railroad took our people to,
they are mostly urban. They are mostly still kind of ghetto. And it I will submit to you
was intentional. Do you see the connection, if you will, to the need for a new underground
railroad?>>I am not sure if that’s pertinent to what
we are talking about, but I understand what your intention is in terms of that history
being reflected in the current situation and kind of making those connections. I would
posit to you there is a discussion going on at the band of immigrants there is going to
be a new underground railroad for the immigrants, there is a buzz about that model being used
in a contemporary situation faced with similar dilemmas by threat of deportation. I would go to Cheryl’s critical geography discussion, discussing root shock, World War II was highways and communities
being destroyed and warehoused in public housing, it wasn’t intentional those escaped moved
in ghetto areas, that’s not true they were in enclave of familiarity. They are lawyers,
doctors, dentists laborers. That term didn’t come in until the 1960s and ’70s when you
have the economics sussed out, there is orchestrated — in the midst of public housing it wasn’t
a bad thing. When you have a situation that’s pushing and pulling, I suspect the root shock
(inaudible), the destruction of a neighborhood systematically creates implosion. Gentrification
making them pretty again. I defer you to Cheryl to add to that.
>>If you use the critical geography and map any of these web lining. You can look at the
introduction of the railroad, you can look at urban renewal. You can look at almost anything
when you map it, you begin to see that there is a (inaudible) that African-Americans are
shunted through the landscape sometimes in black communities there is only one way in,
one way out. There is a lot of things going on in the landscape. When you take the bird’s
eye view and look down, there are still things that are parallel to what you are talking
about. I agree with Dr. Jones that I just had a long conversation with a woman who is
an immigrant and there are parallels starting to take place around the underground railroad
and people in modern day. And also for women. Women are struggling in particular ways and
they have had to resort to many of the same tactics. Your question is, I think, a difficult
one to answer but well placed. And yes, I do see parallels.
>>Thank you.>>Yes, over here.
>>Good afternoon, my name is Dr. Lugins I am very happy to be to be here today, I would
like to thank the Lord, thank the panel, thanks to National Archives for this event. I am
so happy to see this come to fruition. I love the nickname of Nancy and — and just so happy
to see this come to fruition. I — I just had some comments and maybe a question or
two. I did participate — I went to the Harriet Tubman museum in Eastern Shores some years
ago, I saw a flyer there and at that particular time they were advertising to come to Capitol
Hill to talk with the congressman about the project here. So I did participate in that.
And I really lost track and haven’t really been keeping up with things. Recently I saw
this particular flyer about this event tonight. So I am just really happy about happy to be
here. And I would like to know get in a little bit late when is the park opening in Eastern
Shore what about the end of the national park on the other end of the project in New York
— in New York? And I think I had another question but I can’t think of it right now.
>>Sure.>>Thank you so much.
>>The park opens March 11, which is a Saturday. There is a lot of great programming on the
11th and 12th, all throughout the weekend. The park in Auburn has been authorized, it’s
going to be the Harriet Tubman national park — National Historical Park as opposed to
the Harriet Tubman Underground National Park, which is what we have in Maryland, that’s
a recent development. So I don’t know yet when that will be open to the public per se,
but on any given day the church is open, you can see the gravesite, the museum where her
house was when she was a humanitarian. The visitor center is open there now. And so — did
you have another question?>>That was it.
>>Well, great. Thank you. It was Harriet on The Hill, that was our initiative — our
project to get the park authorized in Maryland and New York.
>>You were involved in that?>>I sure was.
>>What is your name again?>>Marci Ross.
>>Okay. Thank you so much. God bless you.>>Time allows we have four more questions.
>>I am Alicia Cohen from Loudoun County in Virginia. We have several sites, underground
railroad sites in Loudoun County. I was always interested, Frederick Douglass was from the
Eastern Shore as well eastern and other locations, there are statues of him and all kinds of
monuments and plaques, so I was wondering when the scholars, if there was any — was
there any relationship between Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass? Did they know each
other? Were there state the plantations where they lived, I don’t know the landscape that
well, I don’t know how close they were.>>We don’t find documentation that they knew
each other while they were on the Eastern Shore. But there is a newspaper article forgive
me I can’t remember the date, where Frederick Douglass talks about housing Tubman when she
comes through with some escapees in Dorchester. There is this relationship and she is relying
on him to help move her cargo one of the words her passengers through the underground railroad.
So, yes, they do know one another. It’s not a relationship that is terribly public during
the time. You see it in the newspaper articles.>>Okay.
>>I would invite you to remember Samuel Cornish, who founded the oldest African-American newspaper,
was a missionary on the Eastern Shore during — for a time. Several newspapers about information,
about the Eastern Shore during this period of significance. I also ask you to remember,
as these individuals are interacting with each other, they are breaking the law. So,
much of what they do in support and in support of each other, and working within the network
they create and expand, it’s outside of the legal system. And until almost 1866 their
citizenship is even in question. So they are not going to leave an extensive record. It’s
inferred in many documents and I think the Maryland hall of records has a number of very
good records that help us understand it. But I would ask us to be a bit more patient and
understanding that what they are doing had to be outside of the law. And they have to
be extremely careful with everything that they did. And so, even down to writing about
it even in later periods. They are very — it was very sensitive. You can laugh. But during
oral history with individuals who had four of these children with 29 brothers and sisters
there were three wives the older one escaped. You can laugh, but the people I was interviewing,
I interviewed, they were — they were sworn to secrecy, they believe they could go back,
this is in the 1980s they could go back and get the relatives of these children and re-enslave
them. You cannot understand people who grew up in this era. That this belief about this
system of enslavement was numbing. And even though we could be very sophisticated about
it, these four children, the children of an enslaved man and several generations of enslaved
people believed in their heart somehow the system could still reach out and get them.
So, I think we have to be sensitive to how real enslavement was to individuals. Goodness
knows for Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman.>>I just have one more question for Marci
related to tourism. And this is because I also work with the journey through hallow
ground, which goes throughout five states on the western end of Virginia, Pennsylvania.
And just like your system there is economics around that and so we are having people come
to visit a site. And I guess my question is: Is the visitors group and the Chamber of Commerce
working with the African-American businesses to take advantage of the increase in economy,
the money that comes in? Because the visitor center and most of the Chamber of Commerces,
they look to the sites to generate an increase in economic standing in the area. As a visitor
I always look at, is there someplace — can I shop, are my dollars going to turn over
several times. And, unfortunately, when I go places that as an eastern, I don’t think
I ever found African American business, I am standing right in front of Frederick Douglass,
in front of the courthouse. I guess I am asking, is there any component within the plans of
this total tourism activity which would help small businesses in the area to benefit?
>>We, through the certified business, host program, we are engaging all businesses as
much as possible, and in fact, there is leadership in the city of Cambridge, in particular from
the African?American community to help the state which can sometimes be mistrusted as
government actually have entree into the communities and into the businesses because — because
sometimes the mistrust can outweigh the desire to — to, you know, advance and move on. So,
yes, we are working with African-American businesses and all businesses in particular
in the mid store in Maryland, there is a private sector small business development center that
has done extensive outreach under the auspices of the opportunity to grow tourism businesses
to help amplify what it is that we are doing. Absolutely.
>>I am going to ask the next three questions be asked in succession, I am getting my time,
if we could have you name your question and we will try to have the panelists make a suggestion
who answers. (inaudible)>>Sure. So, (inaudible). My question is — one
of my personal heroes is Sojourner Truth, and my understanding is she met Harriett Tubman
once during the Civil War. My question is: Is she mentioned at all in the visitors center
in the way that Frederick Douglass seems to be? I know she is not a Marylander.
>>Table that.>>Emily Golden, freshman at George Washington
University. The president’s limited knowledge on Dr. King and Frederick Douglass, how does
that impact the significance of elevating the stories? What role can my generation play
in continuing to share those?>>Sir, your question?
>>I am Dr. John Will, I am still volunteer at the Smithsonian and National Museum of
civil medicine, I got involved in Mercy Street underground, another TV show, they have cast
an actress to play Harriet Tubman for the next season, have any of you been consulted?
And if so, what do you think their take is going to be on Harriet Tubman on — because
they sort of tend to over dramatize the underground railroad in the first season. There is also
— actually, I signed up for the March 11, there is a bus trip from Washington up to
the visitors center all-day bus trip. I think we have places available.
>>Great.>>So we have a question from a freshman student,
we have a question about Sojourner Truth, and how history plays out on the small screen;
anyone want to take one of the questions?>>Heritage tourism is an important part of
what we are doing in history particularly in public history. So I think your question
is very germane. We have to understand how history has to make sense and engage. One
of the things, again traveling with two grandchildren, they love the fact that there are the Junior
Ranger programs and coloring books. There are ways to engage individuals because so
much dealt with the waterways, you get that energy. I would also add that while we don’t
always like to be very supportive of popular culture taking historical questions, sometimes
we need to be very glad because at least it gets it out to a wider audience. So, I think
that even if it’s not always totally correct, that at least it has people looking at these
images and thinking about them. And even the person who is a journalism student finally
won over to history, you can see how — (LAUGHTER)
>>–there is possibility of taking something like journalism and how history just usurps
it and moves it forward.>>I saw you reaching for something.
>>I would say I know we addressed Tubman in the Civil War and her contributions in
the Civil War, to be honest I don’t quite recall how much of the Sojourner piece is
told which point.>>I don’t think it’s told at all in the visitor
center, the Tubman and underground railroad story, it’s not just Tubman but a lot of underground
railroad stories. To me that would be inspiration for you to start a movement to figure out
how we get that done, whether it’s Maryland or anywhere else. And with regard to our leadership
in the White House, today and at any time you find people who — who, whatever.
(LAUGHTER)>>I say, again, keep ever moving forward,
use the principles of Harriet Tubman that we heard so eloquently today to overcome that
kind of obstacle and that kind of, you know, enslavement of words and be inspired and use
those. And what can young people do? Okay. I am a mother of a 25-year-old and 24-year-old,
get out from behind your screens, go to the places where these things actually happened,
whether it’s the Eastern Shore for the underground railroad or it’s — or it’s some — the grand
canyon to look over because there is no place like being there. And you simply can’t get
the sense of all of this by sitting at your screens and keeping your noses and your heads
in your screens. Get out and put your feet where the — in those authentic places where
the things actually happened.>>I will say, take the opposite view, particularly
for African?Americans, the digital humanities is the hottest thing out there. If you are
looking for an area of study go into the digital humanities. We need you. Because everything
that we do now we are — we are relatively old.
(LAUGHTER)>>And so —
(LAUGHTER)>>We are not that great with — with technology.
And so, there is scanning documents, they are transcribing documents. You don’t go to
the archives. I mean, all of these archivists are trying to get you not to come. You know
they don’t want you to handle their stuff. They want you — they are scanning it. So,
it’s very important because if you have the digital training or the I.T. training but
you don’t have the history you are not serviceable to us. And so we need you to have the historical
piece, the geography piece, and the I.T. piece. That is really critical for the work that
we are doing and so I would invite you to marry those things wed those things together
so that you could really be effective in the work that we all do.
>>I want to thank the audience for staying with us through all of the closed doors, I
want to thank our panelists. (APPLAUSE)

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