After crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, it is easy for beach-bound motorists to zip through Cambridge, Maryland, and right past a silver road marker honoring Harriet Tubman in the middle of rural farmland.
But with the release of the new film “Harriet,” people are coming to Dorchester County to learn more about the woman who went from being a runaway slave to the most famous abolitionist along the Underground Railroad that is also highlighting a proud community on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
“We are so proud of Harriett Tubman,” said Cambridge Mayor Valerie Jackson-Stanley, adding that city of about 12,000 has experienced an economic boom since the U.S. Park Service opened the new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in 2017, the effort to Tubman image on the $20 and the movie release. “During the movie premiere, the entire theater was sold out and we have buses coming to Cambridge.”
People are coming to the town to visit the grounds of Brodess Farm, where Tubman was born; the Bucktown Village Store, where she was hit in the head with a stone by slave owner; and the Tuckahoe Neck Meeting House, where slaves were hidden.
While these sites were highlighted in the movie “Harriet,” Alex Green, who along with wife Lisa opened a tour company in Cambridge eight years ago, said there is much more history about Tubman as well as other historical figures who survived slavery, from Frederick Douglass to Rev. Samuel Green.
“We are telling people to see the movie and take the experience,” said Green, a native of Cambridge. “There is so much history and we have to make sure that we want to stay in front of it. The Mason-Dixon line is about 10 minutes from my house and because Delaware was partially a free state, slaves mixed in with free Blacks.”
The Greens live along the Harriet Tubman Byway, a federal highway lined with homes, churches and waterways that were part of the Underground Railroad.
Visitors to Cambridge can also go to the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center downtown, where they can learn about Tubman as well as the history of a town that played a critical role in the civil rights movement.
Historians say Tubman’s exact route is unknown but It is believed that she traveled the 90 miles to Philadelphia northeast along the Choptank River and through Delaware to Pennsylvania.
Tubman made it to Philadelphia, where she found work in hotels and clubhouses, and then to Cape May. She saved money because she planned to return to Maryland to rescue her family, a journey she made many times before becoming a scout for Union soldiers during the Civil War.
In 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act that allowed slave catchers to pursue and return slaves back to their masters. But Tubman was never caught.
Tubman died of pneumonia on March 10, 1913, surrounded by friends and family. Scholars think she was about 93, though her exact age is unknown because her birth records were incomplete. Ironically, she died in Auburn, New York, a town near the U.S.-Canadian border that had many freed slaves.
Kimberly Fogg, a Silver Spring resident and creator of a Harriet Tubman collectible coin, said many young people just don’t know the story of Tubman.
“We have got to keep the spirit of her legacy alive and tell the stories that have never been told,” Fogg said.