Sen. Van Hollen announces Tubman statue efforts
— U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., visited the University of Maryland Eastern Shore campus Monday, Feb. 20, to announce plans for a Harriet Tubman statue at the United States Capitol.
Van Hollen, along with cosponsor Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., has brought forth legislation that, if passed, would commission a statue of Harriet Tubman to be erected in a prominent location in the U.S. Capitol.
“We are getting the story out here in Maryland and across the country, and as part of that effort, we just introduced legislation that would direct the Joint Committee on the Library, which
is the committee in Congress that is part of the architect of the Capitol, to enter into an agreement with the Harriet Tubman Commission of Maryland to commission a statue of Harriet Tubman to be placed somewhere in the United States Capitol,” Van Hollen said.
“Harriet Tubman is an American hero, and it is an important way to honor her incredible contributions to our nation’s history by installing a statue reflecting her work in the U.S. Capitol,” he said. “Born in Maryland, she became a conductor on the Underground Railroad to lead slaves to freedom, served as a Union spy, and pushed for women’s suffrage. She was tireless in her pursuit of freedom and protection of human rights, and she represents the best in Maryland and the nation.”
Tubman was born in Dorchester County and lived there as a slave until she was nearly 30 years old. She escaped slavery in 1849, yet risked her life to return to the Eastern Shore many times to help others in their journey to freedom. She helped about 70 slaves escape and led them north. Some went as far north as Canada.
Cambridge Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley was in attendance for the announcement.
“I was pleasantly surprised with the senator’s announcement,” Jackson-Stanley said. “I am just ecstatic about all that’s happening with the phenomenon of Harriet Tubman. I’m very proud that everyone is recognizing the impact she had on our community and on the nation. A statue at the Capitol is a big deal.”
University of Maryland Eastern Shore President Juliette Bell was excited to host Van Hollen for the announcement, made on the steps of the campus’ Frederick Douglass Library.
“Eastern Shore native Harriet Tubman led hundreds to freedom on the Underground Railroad,” Bell said. “This pioneering African American woman exhibited courage, grit and determination to break the chains of bondage, not just for herself, but for countless others.”
The precursor to this legislation being introduced was an action by the Maryland General Assembly in October 2012.
“I want to thank the Maryland legislature because a number of years ago, they passed legislation to create the Harriet Tubman Commission with the idea that it would commission the building of a statue of Harriet Tubman to be placed in the United States Capitol,” Van Hollen said. “The only way to make that happen is for the U.S. Congress to pass the legislation to allow that to move for ward. So, that’s exactly what this legislation does.
“We tell these stories, not just as a reflection on the past, but as a reminder of the challenges our country has faced, and the challenges our country continues to face, and to make sure that we continue down the road to building a more perfect union,” Van Hollen said.
Senate Bill 402 was introduced on Wednesday, Feb. 15.
“Harriet Ross Tubman is nothing short of an American icon,” Cardin said in a written statement. “There are few greater examples of bravery and valor about which to teach our future generations.
“As Marylanders, we are proud that Harriet Ross Tubman was the first individual woman to have a National Historical Park named in her honor and a statue in the United States Capitol would be a fitting tribute to her incredible work and sacrifice that helped strengthen our nation,” he said.
The announcement comes two weeks before the opening of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center in Dorchester County near Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
The state park and visitor center, which is located at 4068 Golden Hill Road in Church Creek, opens to the public March 11.
The state park is about 17 acres and features a 10,000-square foot visitor center, legacy garden and an open-air pavilion with a stone fireplace. The visitor center houses the exhibit hall, gift shop, information desk, research library and restrooms.
For more information about the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center in Dorchester County, visit dnr2.mar yland.gov/publiclands/pages/eastern/tubman. aspx.
Eunice Lewis Seagraves performs as Harriet Tubman during a Monday, Feb, 20, ceremony at University of Maryland Eastern Shore on the steps of the Frederick Douglass Library.
Cambridge Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley, left, talks with U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., at University of Maryland Eastern Shore Monday, Feb. 20, before Van Hollen announced legislation to commission a Harriet Tubman statue for the U.S. Capitol.
U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., announces legislation at University of Maryland Eastern Shore Monday, Feb. 20, to commission a Harriet Tubman statue for the U.S. Capitol.