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More Complete Documentation of Md. Underground Railroad Sites Planned

When Maryland celebrates the 200th birthday of Harriet Tubman in 2022, there will be more complete documentation detailing the story of the Underground Railroad she founded to help others escape slavery.

The effort has just received a grant to fund additional research.

Tubman was an American abolitionist who was born into slavery. She escaped and helped other enslaved African Americans escape through the Underground Railroad network of secret routes and safe houses.

The 400 Years of African-American History Commission has awarded $20,000 to support four research fellows, who will work to study, document and provide interpretation for additional Underground Railroad Network to Freedom sites across the state.

Maryland currently has 85 National Park Service Freedom to Network sites helping to tell the story of the Underground Railroad.

Thomas B. Riford, the state’s assistant secretary of Commerce, Tourism, Film, the Arts, Marketing and Communication, wants there to be 100.

“To be able to get from 85 to 100 is a very difficult goal. There’s a lot of research and a lot of validation that has to happen,” Riford said. “Everything has to have more than one historical documentation.”

The process works closely with the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland program at the Maryland State Archives and with the commission.

Riford said the Network to Freedom Program that preserves and promotes the history of resistance to enslavement serves as inspiration to people around the world. He notes that Maryland is the birthplace not just of Tubman but also abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Both sought freedom and escaped slavery.

“Maryland is the most powerful Underground Railroad storytelling destination in the entire world,” Riford said. “We’re able to tell those stories of people who sought their freedom and wanted to become emancipated — self-emancipation.”

The state program’s four new research fellows will be chosen from universities in Maryland, with the opportunity for some to be selected from predominantly African American colleges.

Riford expects the fellowships will be awarded early in 2021 to give the process as much time as possible before Tubman’s March 1822 birth date and to collect more stories that he said deserve to be told.

“We have more stories about this part of our history than any other place,” Riford said.

As part of Maryland Matters’ content sharing agreement with WTOP, we feature this article from Kristi King. Click here for the WTOP News website.


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More Complete Documentation of Md. Underground Railroad Sites Planned