Members of Congress push for Harriet Tubman National Park in Auburn

Feb 14, 2013

Lawmakers in Washington are pushing for the establishment of a Harriet Tubman National Park in Auburn, where the abolitionist lived and died. Members of the New York congressional delegation say it could have a big impact on Auburn.

Although Tubman is best know for ferrying hundreds of slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad, Syracuse-area Rep. Dan Maffei says her legacy goes beyond that.

"She was also a pioneer in elder rights and pioneer in elder care. She was a woman in combat 150 years before we have women in combat officially," said Maffei. "It really is one of those things I feel we need Harriet Tubman today more than ever."

Maffei, along with Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand introduced a bill in Congress this week, to establish the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn as a National Historical Park. It would include several historical structures, including her home, the Home for the Aged she established, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church and the Fort Hill Cemetery where she is burred. 

Maffei says in addition to the historic need for it, the designation would be a big boost to the tourism industry in Cayuga County, creating a lot of jobs.

"We're talking about 70 new jobs just making this into the park it should be. But that doesn't include all the ripple effects of having that kind of nationally recognized place," Maffei said.

Maffei says this would go hand-in-hand with other historical locations in central New York, including the Women's Right's National Historical Park in Seneca Falls.  

The Democrat says he's optimistic it'll get through Congress.

"We've got bipartisan support, particularly good support  from the Senate including the Senate Appropriations Chairperson Barbara Mikulski, so I'm very hopeful, and I'm going to push very hard for it."

Mikulski, and the other senator from Maryland, Ben Cardin are also sponsors of the bill, which also establishes the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Maryland.

Tubman was born in Maryland and was a slave there for 30 years.