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The Special Resource Study Completion

The Harriet Tubman Special Resource Study was undertaken to explore the question of whether the National Park Service should be involved with recognizing and honoring Harriet Tubman and preserving sites associated with her. The study, which was completed in January 2009, determined that resources (buildings and places) in Auburn, New York, and Dorchester, Caroline, and Talbot counties, Maryland, met criteria for units of the park system. The Secretary of the Interior transmitted the study to Congress on January 12, 2009, with support for establishing two units of the National Park System.

Brick residence of Tubman, Auburn, New York (National Park Service)

Background of the Study

In the mid 1990s the National Park Service did a study of Underground Railroad sites which concluded that 13 places, including two associated with Harriet Tubman, warranted a closer look to determine if they might be included in the national park system. They were the Tubman home in Auburn, New York, and what was assumed to be her birthplace in Dorchester County, Maryland.

Congress in November 2000 passed a law mandating this special resource study. The law names five Tubman sites in Auburn, New York, and two in Dorchester County, Maryland, for investigation. Dorchester County is where Tubman was born and grew up, and Auburn is where she made her home for more than 40 years until her death in 1913. In addition, the law directs the National Park Service to analyze the suitability and feasibility for a national heritage corridor (area) [Criteria for National Heritage Areas] including the named sites and other sites associated with Harriet Tubman.

Harriet Tubman is widely known for her role in the Underground Railroad, but less well known for being a Union scout, spy, and nurse. Likewise Tubman is better known as an American icon than as a fully described and understood historical person. Only in the past few years have scholars begun to produce a more detailed and accurate historical picture of Tubman and her career, and in the few years, five new biographies have been published. This special resource study, like others, relied on existing information rather than undertaking original research.

Learn more about the study:

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