Archaeologists have found the site of a cabin owned by Harriet Tubman’s father, Ben Ross, at the BlackWater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County, Maryland. Historians believe Tubman would have spent time at home as a child, but also returned as a teenager to work there alongside her father. The find has been hailed as a major glimpse into the life of the civil rights pioneer.
Boyd Rutherford, Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, said: âThis discovery adds another piece of the puzzle to the history of Harriet Tubman, the state of Maryland and our nation.
âIt is important that we continue to discover parts of our history from which we can learn lessons, especially when they may be lost to time and other forces.
“I hope this latest achievement can inspire similar efforts and help strengthen our partnerships in the future.”
Known as the conductor of the Underground Railroad, Tubman was instrumental in rallying and organizing anti-slavery activists, as well as rescuing entire families of enslaved people.
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Historians estimate that she managed to save some 70 people before her death in 1913.
Born a slave herself as Araminta Ross, Tubman was very familiar with the pain and suffering of black people in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The exact date of his birth is unknown, with various conflicting documents indicating 1815, 1820, 1822 or 1825.
She changed her name to Harriet after marrying a free black man named John Tubman.
What is clear, however, is that the BlackWater Reserve land was bequeathed to his father by Anthony Thompson in the 1800s.
Thompson’s will stated that Ben Ross was to be freed from slavery after his death in 1836, and the former slave was granted the land in the 1840s.
The site was recently excavated after a large piece of land was acquired last year by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
The 2,600-acre property covers the 10 acres of land donated to Tubman’s father.
The land was purchased in order to protect it from the effects of sea level rise and the encroachment of swamps that threaten the archaeological site.
Archaeologists began excavating the place in November last year, looking for evidence of Ben Ross’s cabin.
The teams returned in March of this year to discover a multitude of artefacts from the 1800s.
Dr Julie Schablitsky, chief archaeologist for the State Highway Administration (SHA) of the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), said: âThe importance of discovering Ben Ross’s cabin here is the connection to Harriet Tubman.
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âShe would have spent time here as a child, but also she would have come back and live here with her teenage dad, working alongside her.
âIt was the opportunity she had to learn to navigate and survive in wetlands and woods.
“We think she benefited from this experience when she began to bring people to freedom.”
According to Douglas Mitchell, Tubman’s great-great-great-grandson, the discovery of the cabin and the artifacts is “truly priceless.”
He said: âDr. Schablitsky’s findings promise to deepen and broaden our understanding of the remarkable life not only of the Patriarch and his beloved wife, but also, of course, that of his legendary daughter and heroine. , Harriet Tubman.
âOn this joyous occasion, more than 160 years after Ben Ross left his humble cabin never to return, all freedom and justice loving Americans are parents to Ross, celebrating this hugely important archaeological find and the invaluable revelations that ‘she is meant to offer. “
Tubman’s great-great-great-great-niece and Ben Ross’s great-great-great-great-granddaughter Tina Wyatt has called the civil rights icon a woman of epic proportions.
She added, âIt brings enlightenment, revealing how he lived his daily life, which makes it a real connection to and for me, a great-great-great-great-granddaughter.
âThe world also benefits from the study of these artefacts relating to objects used by slaves; are they common to this plantation, to its location, or to this region?
“It gives us so much more to explore, explain and exhibit.”