Chilly Church Hill Maryland
On a blustery day in March 2017 we were fortunate enough to attend the grand opening of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park. It opened March 11, 2017 in Church Hill, Maryland. Which is where Harriet Tubman was born. (A little known fact that I was unaware of.)
Now being a homeschool family is especially nice when I stumble upon an activity that we can learn about and then be a part of the grand opening. And after realizing that we didn’t miss this, I am notorious for finding cool stuff to do after the fact. I was super stoked.
I must admit, I grew up in Missouri. While I knew of Harriet and the Underground Railroad; the impact of her story and her selfless contributions to the country and world I knew. I was acutely unaware of. Now this is not necessarily anyone’s fault or maybe it’s everyone’s, depends on how you look at it. The important thing is my children now know just how amazing this humble woman was.
As we spent our days researching and learning all about Harriet Tubman, I realized just how little I did know about her and this specific period in America’s history. And beings as Our Traveled Roads mission is to learn about America and her history, I would call this trip a resounding success.
Preparing for our Trip
During or week or so of research we read books, watched YouTube videos, read from websites and did some printable’s about Harriet Tubman’s time line and life. We even did an art project. But I can honestly say that nothing, and I mean nothing, no words, or pictures, or videos brought home the sacrifice and strength of Harriet Tubman like that small three room museum did.
Now while the museum part of the Visitors center was a bit small in size. It made up for in pure content. I was surprised and taken a back by just how detailed each exhibit was. There were quotes from her about her life, murals on the wall of slaves escaping with her help. The list of all the people she saved on the wall, copies of the songs she made up to help others. It was truly eye opening.
Now for the grand opening they had a fantastic Harriet Tubman reinactor in a tent outside. As I mentioned it was a bit cold so they had heaters set up blowing into the tent. Unfortunately we arrived a bit late and being in the back it was hard to hear over the heaters. But what we could hear was fantastic.
We left the tent a bit early to go inside and warm up. Checked out the book shop and picked up a few fantastic books to read at home.
After that the outside tent had ended and that sent a flood of people into the lobby. I sort of wish we had started the museum part before the crowd arrived because I think some of the exhibit elements were lost on us. (that just means well have to take another trip soon!!)
Inside the Museum
All in all I think there were 12-13 exhibits on the various times in Harriet Tubman’s life. The first room was about her early days n Church Hill, Maryland, her separation form her family, and some of the daily tasks she was told to do.
All throughout the museum there were quotes from her about her life, about slavery, and freedom. She had resolve, courage and determination from a young age that is more inspiring than any biblical or mythological story I’ve ever heard or been taught.
The second room is an open space with 5-6 exhibits along the walls. One was about her use of the North Star. One was a list of all the slaves she brought to freedom during her time as an Underground Railroad Conductor. Now by far my favorite exhibit was in the middle of this room . There was a water scene with a boat sticking out of the wall. It has Harriet on the boat leaning over to help her people into the boat.
The scene is designed to be seen from all angles and moving/ inspirational doesn’t do it justice. I stood there for along time just examining the faces of the people in the water, trying to get help, wanting a better life. And I was ashamed, ashamed of humans and the human race for this period of time when this is what people had to do to be free.
Freedom for All
Then as I walked around the room, my shame sort of turned to triumph. As I looked at all the names on the wall that 1 person had saved. I looked and found that no matter what horrible things were happening around them, these people found a way to not accept, and do something to change what they saw as wrong.
Then I quickly remember the world we all live in now. One where lies, greed, and alternative facts are all around us. I wondered if we too, could find the strength of our character to stand up and right a terrible wrong ? I’m not so sure. Life is so much different now.
The pillars throughout the room all bear quotes from Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas and many more. All reminders to us of how one little slave girl stood up to an entire Army and won.
The other thing I noted as I walked through the exhibits is that I didn’t see a single picture of Harriet smiling, She looked so sad. The sadness of her life and living in a world where she was a hero for doing something no one else would not, or could not do was in her eyes. Just the fact that her heroism was needed in her world was one that she never understood.
I would love to return and see the gardens planted in her honor one day soon.
This museum is small and really only needs a few hours to complete. But it is a few hours that will open your eyes and bring to light a small chunk of Americas history like no other.