view counter

All Our History

Harriet Tubman now conducting tours

History is a bigger hall nowadays, with room at the table for more people than the old white guys who used to rule there. So a good story for any week of the year is the new prominence coming to Harriet Tubman as a hero of Maryland, New York and our nation.
    Harriet Tubman, a contemporary of Abe Lincoln, escaped slavery only to return home, to Dorchester County, to conduct many more enslaved people along the Underground Railroad she had followed to freedom.
    In “Harriet’s Homecoming: The road was long and never smooth for Harriet Tubman,” Emily Myron tells you more, including the Congressional honor making Tubman the first individual woman to have a National Historical Park named for her.
    As the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park comes together, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park is under construction on Tubman’s Eastern Shore homeland
    Blackwater Wildlife Refuge marks the spot in a landscape that’s mostly open space, farm or preserve. Listening to a new audio tour that’s part of the package will inform your drive along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway. You can bike the flatland too, with bike and kayak rentals near the Refuge.
    But that’s down the road …
    In the here and now, we’re telling this story in Black History Month.
    Why bother with Black History Month now that Black History is all our history? Or, for that matter, Women’s History Month in March?
    Memorial times still matter because we know so little of what we know.
    Our own personal history slides into forgetfulness as we march away from back then into the advancing years.
    How much — or little — do you know about the other people in your own life? Your friends? Your brothers and sisters? Your parents? Even your partner?
    Unless you’re a genealogist or writing a family history, I bet we share the same kind of amnesia. Test yourself: Do you know when and where your mother was born? If you can answer those questions, can you go a step further? How did she enter this world: by midwife or doctor or quite spontaneously in a car en route to the hospital?
    (Send me your answers and I’ll send you mine.)
    Even the people drilled into our collective consciousness in school — Lincoln, Washington and all those other presidents we honor February 22 — live on in our memories as a few semi-bright images in a fog of oblivion.
    If we know a little more of black history, it’s because such a big deal has been made of it over the last half century. Memorials, museums, monuments and, yes, Black History Month, make our pictures of the past into bright murals — maybe even movies.
    This week’s feature puts Tubman into focus and opens the way for us to see more. A landscape looks empty until you’ve learned about the people who lived in it before you. Now, 102 years after her death, Harriet Tubman can conduct you through the Shore as she knew it.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com