Harriet Tubman’s spirit carried on
SANDTOWN, DEL. — With a walking stick in hand, Atlanta resident Mashona Council began a 125-mile journey of hope on Sept. 17 in Cambridge.
Along the way, Council carried more than food and supplies. She carried the spirit of Harriet Tubman on the same path mirrored by Tubman’s first attempted escape slavery for freedom that started Sept. 17, 1849. Tubman’s initial attempt was not successful. She did succeed in December 1849, when crossing from Maryland into Sandtown, Del.
By Saturday, Sept. 23, Council walked along state Route 287 near Goldsboro where she could see the finish line at the Delaware state line. As she approached, a host of friends, family and
supporters cheered Council, each step closer to her goal. When she crossed into Delaware, Council fell to her knees in tears, and her supporters gathered to pray in unity.
“The spirit of Harriet Tubman is home,” Council said as the group prayed.
Her journey began at the Dorchester County Visitor Center in Cambridge and continued to all 36 Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway locations in Dorchester and Caroline counties. Council stopped to camp each night, then continued.
After crossing into Delaware in 1849, Tubman recalled there was no one to welcome her to the land of freedom.
For Council, she wanted Tubman’s spirit to have a warm welcome, and she got it with the cheers from supporters Saturday.
“What has been resting with me today is to bring Harriet’s spirit here, and to have that spirit get welcomed by others because Harriet did not have people cheering her on when she crossed into Delaware,” Council said. “It is an honor to have the opportunity to be a part of that. This journey has been extremely humbling.
“Harriet did the hard work,” she said. “She did it so we could be free. There have just been amazing people here along the way. I want to thank everyone here today, on social media, everywhere, for giving me so much support and strength to make this journey. Most of all, thank you to Harriet Tubman and God for making today possible.”
Council spent the next hour taking pictures and talking with supporters.
Her friend Theresa Murphy could not hold back the tears while talking about Council’s journey.
“Her making it to the finish line felt like hope,” she said. “It feels exactly what God tells us it should be. We should have faith in him and him alone, and he would see you through every single step. It was a lesson of trust and hope.”
Council’s journey came in the year the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center opened in Dorchester County. The visitor center, located at 4068 Golden Hill Road in Church Creek near Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, is the 13th stop on the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway.
The 10,000-square foot visitor center features a legacy garden and an openair pavilion with a stone fireplace. It also houses an exhibit hall, gift shop, information desk, research library and restrooms. Visitors begin their experience with an immersive, two- to three-minute audio-visual theater feature to show a day in the life of Tubman.
Then visitors can explore how the landscape of the Choptank River Region shaped Tubman’s early life, and the importance of her faith, family and community. The exhibit also features information about Tubman’s role as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and her work as a freedom fighter, humanitarian, leader and liberator.
“This land is rich in history,” Council said. “Sometimes we take for granted how much history is here, good and bad, and the persistence people have shown to overcome adversity. It was amazing to go to those places.”
Atlanta resident Mashona Council sheds tears along with her supporters after she crossed into Delaware Saturday, Sept. 23, to complete her Harriet Tubman Freedom Walk.
Atlanta resident Mashona Council, yellow vest, stands with friends and supporters by the Welcome to Delaware sign in Sandtown, Del., after completing her Harriet Tubman Freedom Walk Saturday, Sept. 23.
Atlanta resident Mashona Council goes to her knee to pray after crossing into Delaware on Saturday, Sept. 23, during her Harriet Tubman Freedom Walk.
Friends and supporters welcome Atlanta resident Mashona Council as she approaches Delaware during her Harriet Tubman Freedom Walk Saturday, Sept. 23.
Atlanta resident Mashona Council, yellow vest, prays with friends and supporters in Sandtown, Del., after completing her Harriet Tubman Freedom Walk Saturday, Sept. 23.
Atlanta resident Mashona Council approaches Delaware during her Harriet Tubman Freedom Walk Saturday, Sept. 23.