A visit to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad site on Maryland’s Eastern Shore

On “Palm Monday” I visited the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park on the Maryland Eastern Shore (south of Cambridge), which is also a national monument run by the National Park Service.

Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland on 1822. She was injured in a shop when struck by an object thrown by an angry slaveowner weighing goods, aimed at someone else. She managed to escape, and eventually settled in Auburn, NY (near Syracuse), but made return missions and helped rescue over 70 families along an “Underground Railroad” which the motorist today can drive up Md 16 toward Denton on 404 (Reboboth Highway).

The exhibits diagram how slavery worked in southern Maryland. Farms were smaller than in the deeper south, and slaves were traded more often. Undercover “informants” would pretend to help slaves and then turn them in for bounties. Escaping slaves were often kidnapped, and sometimes free men were taken my mistaken identity and returned to slavery (as with the 2013 film “12 Years a Slave” by Steve McQueen. Slaves had a sense of very low station in life. The over all impression left by the museum is one of overwhelming racial bigotry.

The exhibit also raises the question of “resistance” (a term we hear today) in a moral context.  When is it right to disobey existing law?  How do we deal with this in the Bible (like here in Ephesians)?  We see this problem in other contexts, like African American soldiers serving in segregated units through World War II (remember the HBO film “Truman“).

The museum offered a 2 hour presentation of the opening ceremony by video, with Maryland governor Larry Hogan (Republican) speaking.  Later a biographical film will be offered.

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(Posted Tuesday, April 11, 2017 at 9:45 AM EDT)

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