ANNAPOLIS – Members of the Maryland Women’s Legislative Caucus are backing four bills to memorialize Harriet Tubman in both Annapolis and Washington.
“It provides an opportunity for the state of Maryland to honor one of it’s own heroes, a great Marylander, a great American hero,” said Del. Susan Lee (D-Montgomery), the president of the Women’s Legislative Caucus and the lead sponsor of the four bills in the House.
The first bill would allow Maryland to give the U.S. government a statue of Tubman to be placed somewhere in the U.S. Capitol. The second bill asks Gov. Martin O’Malley to declare March 10, 2012 “Harriet Tubman Day.” The third bill would honor that day annually as “Harriet Tubman Day” in the state. The fourth bill asks that President Barack Obama nationally recognize the day.
Two of the bills are expected to be heard March 6 by the House Health and Government Operations Committee.
Sen. Catherine Pugh (D-Baltimore City) is sponsoring the four bills in the Maryland Senate.
Tubman was born into slavery in Maryland. After she managed to escape, she returned to the state to rescue her family and to lead hundreds of other slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad.
Earlier this month, Madame Tussand’s in Washington, D.C., unveiled a wax figure of Tubman in the President’s Gallery.
Charles E.T. Ross, Tubman’s great-great-great nephew, said he is proud to have the opportunity to celebrate her legacy.
“She’s an icon. Not in the sense of being a president, not in the sense of being an actor or celebrity. She’s an icon in her own status,” he said.
Last year, legislation that would replace the statue of John Hanson, one of the two existing statues of Maryland figures in the Capitol, with a statue of Tubman failed to pass.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller opposed replacing Hanson’s statue.
“The question was, do you replace either one of those two, and my answer was no,” he said. “Let’s find another, more appropriate place for Tubman.”
Miller said he likes the idea of having a permanent way to recognize Tubman’s place in history.
“She deserves a place in our country’s heart and minds for her courage and her foresightedness in recognizing that this was a wrong that needed to be righted,” he said.
Tubman’s family said they also want to honor their ancestor but not in a way that would replace an existing statue at the Capitol or affect another family.
“Instead of removing somebody else’s family, find her her own spot,” Ross said.