Federal parks officials have declared the burial place of abolitionist Harriet Tubman and sites in upstate New York where she lived and worked, a national park in recognition of the historical contributions she made during and after the Civil War.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell signed a memorandum during a ceremony Tuesday in Auburn, N.Y., dedicating the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park. Establishment of the park comes 17 years after Congress authorized a special resource study concerning the preservation and public use of sites associated with Tubman.
“Harriet Tubman’s story is America’s story,” Jewell said at the signing ceremony. “She lived her principles: her strong faith in God, her love of family, belief in the dignity of all humans and a vision for a better life for all people in this country, so what better place to tell her story than within America’s storyteller and that is the National Park Service.”
Tubman – who has been credited with helping to free hundreds of slaves – lived in Auburn when the Civil War ended. After serving as a cook, nurse, and spy for the Union, Tubman retired to the upstate New York town to tend to her parents. She spent the last fifty years of her life there, caring for the ill at the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged. During this time, she also became active in the women’s suffrage movement and was an influential member of the AME Zion Church.
Sen. Chuck Schumer who introduced the legislation commissioning the study on the Tubman sites was also present at the ceremony and praised the naming of the national park for her.
“Today with the secretary’s signature, we will officially establish the home of Harriet Tubman in central new York as a national historic park,” Shumer said. “With that, we further the legacy of Harriet Tubman as an abolitionist, a civil rights leader, an American hero, and as a New Yorker generations and generations to come.”
The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park will serve as the sister-park to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Park in Cambridge, Maryland – which was declared a National park in 2014. The New York state park is the 414th location to receive national park status.
Last April, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that Tubman’s face would replace former President Andrew Jackson’s on the $20 bill. In addition to printing Tubman’s likeness on U.S. currency and commemorating her with national parks, Tubman’s life’s work has also been commemorated in the form of a U.S. stamp, and several statues across the country.