Harriet Tubman is a legendary historical figure, and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway in Maryland is the best place to learn about her life and history. Here’s a look at Tubman’s incredible legacy and the byway that honors her achievements.
Who Was Harriet Tubman?
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery as Araminta Ross sometime between 1820 and 1822. Taking her husband’s last name and dubbing herself Harriet, Tubman went on to become a powerful figure in American history, guiding enslaved people to freedom in the north, advocating for women’s suffrage, and serving as a spy, scout, soldier, and nurse in the Union Army.
She is most known for her time as a “conductor” of the Underground Railroad. Estimated to have operated from around 1810 to 1850, the Underground Railroad was a secret network by which escaped enslaved people sought freedom in the north. Around 100,000 of these so-called “passengers,” or freedom seekers, successfully escaped slavery thanks to the Railroad and its conductors. Tubman was one of the most famous conductors. She was never caught, and never lost a single passenger.
During the Civil War, she put her skills to work in the Union Army. She would disguise herself as an old woman, wander Confederate streets, and gather information from enslaved populations about Confederate troop positions and supply lines. In 1863, Tubman became the first woman in American history to lead a military assault—the Combahee Ferry Raid, which freed more than 700 enslaved people.
Her extraordinary life and accomplishments distinguished her as an icon of American history. Her legacy is celebrated in books, movies, parks, and even the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway
Also known as the Harriet Tubman Byway and the Underground Railroad Byway, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway is a 125-mile driving tour of 45 designated historic sites along Maryland’s Eastern Shore. You can drive it yourself or arrange for a guided tour.
Places to visit along the byway include the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center and the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center. The Center was started in the 1990s by local community members wanting to promote Tubman’s legacy. You can also visit Adkins Arboretum and see their guided experience “Rooted Wisdom: Nature’s Role in the Underground Railroad.”
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