The Harriet Tubman National Park has been officially established in Auburn, N.Y., in honor of the fearless Black abolitionist who led hundreds of enslaved Africans to freedom. Tubman’s former home and the church she worshiped in also are included in the designation, which has been in development since 2000.
Aside from the Thompson Memorial AME Zion Church, its rectory and her house, the national park also will include the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, which she established for elderly and destitute Black people, according to USA Today.
Tubman is best known for helping hundreds of enslaved Africans escape along the Underground Railroad, a secret route used by escapees to flee white masters. Even after the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 made traveling to the northern U.S. unsafe, Tubman continued her efforts, taking them to Canada instead.
The national park was made official after U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell signed the memorandum. It will focus on Tubman’s advocacy for women’s suffrage after she served as a cook, nurse and spy in the Civil War, along with other causes. The park joins sister site Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Cambridge, Maryland, which was established in December 2014.
“These two parks preserve and showcase a more complete history of one of America’s pivotal humanitarians who, at great personal risk, did so much to secure the freedom of hundreds of formerly enslaved people,” Jewell said in a press release. “Her selfless commitment to a more perfect union is testament that one determined person, no matter her station in life or the odds against her, can make a tremendous difference.”
The memorandum to create the national park made it the 414th unit in the National Park System. USA Today reported the National Park Service is currently partnering with Harriet Tubman Home, Inc., which owns the Home for the Aged and other properties, as well as the AME Zion Church to run the park.
“It’s unfortunate because a lot of children don’t even know the name ‘Harriet Tubman,'” AME Zion Church lay leader Yvonne Baskerville told the website of the “long overdue” honor.
But Tubman’s great-great-great grandniece Judith Bryant is simply glad her ancestor is getting recognized.
“I’m just happy that it got done on President Obama’s watch,” she said. “It’s truly significant for the country.”