This column in Attraction, by Amelia Blades Steward, visits the faces of those who have benefited from the generous and tireless work of the nonprofits on the Mid Shore or are one of the organizations giving back in unique ways to better our world. She has been a freelance writer in our community for over 20 years and offers a glimpse into the lives of residents on the Mid Shore whom she has met along the way.
The Harriet Tubman Organization, Inc. is a community-based association located in Cambridge that honors Harriet Ross Tubman. Known as the “Moses” of her people, Harriet Tubman was an African American woman of great moral courage, nobly earning her place among the great historic heroes of American heritage.
The organization began as the Harriet Tubman Association of Dorchester County, which was founded on September 24, 1972, at the home of Reverend Blanch Bailey. Russell Bailey and his wife opened their home at 1032 Pine Street, Cambridge, to support the early work of co-founders Addie Clash Travers and Reverend Edward Jackson, as the Harriet Tubman Committee. In the early days before the founding of the organization that would become the Harriet Tubman Organization, local historian, Addie Clash Travers, was the lady locals contacted to learn more about Harriet Tubman. The committee was founded to assist the Trustees of Bazzel United Methodist Church in Bucktown in planning a three-day annual activity in memory of Harriet Ross Tubman near the farm where she grew up and was enslaved.
The Harriet Tubman Committee then organized in 1983 at Waugh Chapel United Methodist Church, Cambridge to develop a community cultural center. The center would provide services to the community and address the needs of children through cultural, educational, social, economic and historical activities. The center would also preserve and promote the life of Harriet Ross Tubman. In 1996, the Board of Directors voted to change its name to the Harriet Tubman Organization, Inc. This change more accurately reflected the group’s vision for the future and its revised mission. The mission of the Harriet Tubman Organization is to develop programs and services for children and families and to preserve the history and memory of Harriet Tubman by offering the general public an interpretive history of her achievements. This mission includes acting as an advocate for the children, youth and families and promoting historical preservation.
Efforts today for the Harriet Tubman Organization are being led by Bill Jarmon, President, and Linda Harris, Director of Events and Programming. Bill, a Dorchester County native and retired educator, comments, “When they started the committee, their goal was to learn as much as they possibly could about Harriet Ross Tubman. What they found was there was a lack of knowledge or understanding of her role during the period of time that she was here.”
The group, which was initially having its meetings at Waugh Chapel United Methodist Church, found a permanent site on Poplar Street in Cambridge and began meeting there. Eventually, the group created an association and started having activities to raise funds to share the history of Harriet Tubman. One of their first activities was a one-hour driving tour of the sites related to Harriet Tubman. In 1992, the organization was able to secure its permanent location at 424 Race Street, which is where the museum is housed today.
“When I got here by 2006, the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center were having monthly discussion groups. And that was led by John Creighton and Pat Lewis. And, from my knowledge, it also included other individuals from the Historical Society of Caroline County,” Bill added.
Although Bill grew up in Dorchester County, he admits he didn’t know much about Harriet Tubman. So that became the organization’s mission – to be a museum and educational center.
Linda Harris, Director of Events and Programming for the museum, learned about Harriet Tubman in 1965. “I think other parts of the country were talking about Harriet Tubman when Dorchester County was not. My father bought me a book called Runaway Slave: The Story of Harriet Tubman,” Linda recalls.
“In 2020, I had recently retired and was living near Washington, D.C. I was moved emotionally by the events of that year – the social unrest, COVID, and most particularly George Floyd. And I remember one night crying about George Floyd when I picked up that little book that my dad had given me in 1965. And I realized she was from Dorchester County in Maryland. So, I decided to drive over, and I met Mr. Jarmon.”
Linda then got engaged with the museum as a volunteer. “I came to this place and saw the need and created a new volunteer position, Director of Events and Activities. It was just so amazing for me to get involved with the museum – it was about finding freedom. I felt as if my freedoms had been taken away during that time. After I found Harriet, I decided to walk a portion of the Underground Railroad with seven other women. They walked from the Brodas Plantation in Dorchester County to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It changed my life. This place has given me a whole new life and new purpose.”
In its work about helping others learn about Harriet Tubman. The museum has coined the phrase for visitors, “Find the Harriet in You.”
Linda says, “I tell people to take an aspect of what Harriet did and embrace it. So, we’re making her story relatable to now for visitors. Her story is an American story. We tell them, ‘That could be your story or my story.’ It’s a story of freedom, resilience, and persistence. If all of us do just a tenth of what Harriet did, concerning helping others find freedom, helping the elderly, and helping the war effort – it would make the world a better place. I think that’s why people are coming to Cambridge and they’re excited.”
Linda adds, “I’m learning something new every day. Just from a human standpoint, Harriet was incredible.”
The museum hosts the event “Jazz at the Mural” on the second Saturday of every month and Harriet Tubman Walks on the first and last Saturday of each month exploring the downtown and the Brodas and Thompson Plantations. Upcoming activities this fall include a walk from Auburn, New York, to St. Catherine, and a Christmas Eve Walk in honor of when Harriet came back on Christmas Eve for her enslaved family. The Museum also tells Harriet Tubman’s New York story on Saturdays through their volunteer, Ellen Mousin.
The museum is open three days a week, Thursday and Friday from noon to 3 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. The Harriet Tubman Organization accepts donations and welcomes the opportunity to partner with other organizations who share its vision for educating the community on Harriet’s story. Donations may be sent to the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center, 424 Race Street, Cambridge, Maryland 21613. For further information, call 410-228-0401 or visit harriettubmanmuseumcenter.org.
Upcoming events at the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center include:
Harriet Goes To Handsell
Music of Native, African American, and Colonial settlers
Saturday, July 9 • Noon-2 p.m.
Tours of Handsell House and Chicone Longhouse
Handsell, 4837 Indiantown Road, Vienna
The free event is free. It features Ashley Watkins on flute, David Cole on banjo, and Greg Holloway on percussion instruments, who will explore spirituals, code songs, along with indigenous and colonial-inspired music.
Jazz at the Mural
Featuring Colie Azia
Saturday, July 9 • 7 p.m.