The Delaware Underground Railroad: A National
Model for the state’s first National Park Unit - Freedom Land
Park. The National Freedom Land Park is designed to include the
entire state including Delaware’s vast resources, related
themes, and topics associated with the
Railroad and the ideals of freedom
in Sussex, Kent, and New Castle County. Delaware was considered
a major corridor traveled during the 19th Century by
Harriet Tubman and
who escaped to freedom from the south to the north. The
Underground Railroad was a secret network of paths, hiding
places, and courageous individuals from all backgrounds and
cultures who aided heroic freedom seekers to the north and
Canada. “The fellowship of the Underground Railroad was truly
ecumenical, including Roman Catholics, Jews and Protestants as
well as freethinkers”. (Charles Blockson)
“It is a part of our history which reflects
well on the country, but which has an unhappier side… We need to
remember we were a country in which slavery existed. And at the
same time remember there were people who thought it was wrong
and were willing to risk their lives to change it.” Congressman
Peter Kostmayer, January 23, 1990.
Goals and Objectives:
1. To preserve and enhance the ideals of freedom,
justice, and equality for all people regardless of race, creed,
economic, social, or national origin.
To chronicle the history and legacy of authentic
sites and stories related to the Underground Railroad,
consistent with the universal principals and values of freedom
shared with the world community.
Underground Railroad northeast map and guide,
land, waterways & handbook.
increase public awareness and promote state and regional
HR 4578 - U.S. Congress - 2.5 mil funding
resources for the preservation of historic sites or structures.
6. Support the establishment of
Delaware's First National Park Unit.
Delaware Freedom Schooner: Sailing museum and
exhibit, class room, gift shop.
To document a half century of contemporary
resources to restore and preserve the Underground Railroad.
Sub-title: Pioneers of the Underground Railroad
a high-tech marketing program equivalent to 21st Century
9. Incorporate the Universal Voices of Freedom.
10. Develop community humanitarian Underground Railroad
programs: Example. Freedom
Scholarships, International Freedom Festival & Concert.
The National Freedom Land Park includes a
comprehensive network of land, water, rails & trails, cities,
towns, villages, historic districts, monuments, cemeteries,
settlements, forts, and narratives of heroic Freedom Seekers &
the Anti-Slavery Movement.
Concept C. NPS Underground Railroad Special
Resource Study: “Under this concept people would be able to
visit a defined geographic area that contains multiple
Underground Railroad Resources. These resources would include
portions of documented escape routes, both land and water, as
well as landscaped features, archaeological remains, traditional
African American and Native Americans communities, conductors,
homes, barns, and other structures associated with the
Underground Railroad…”The Underground Railroad story has
universal significance for people throughout the world.”
A special resource and feasibility study to
identify, analyze, evaluate, and recommend the appropriate
designation for the new National Park Unit in Delaware. There
are (389) National Park Units and Delaware is the only state
without a National Park. Rhode Island has three NP sites and
Guam has one. Delaware is entitled and deserves at least three
sites comparable to Rhode Island. The state holds the exclusive
title, “the first state” to ratify the constitution, December 7,
1787, which should qualify Delaware for the
“A list of World Cultural & Natural Heritage Recognized as
Exhibiting Outstanding Universal Value”. Caesar Rodney, the
state’s Patriot traveled (80) miles to sign the
Declaration of Independence
and tried unsuccessful as Speaker of the House in 1769 to have a
law passed prohibiting the importation of slaves in the state.
NPS Eligibility for Consideration: National
· It is an outstanding example of a particular type
It possesses exceptional value or quality in
illustrating or interpreting the natural or cultural themes of
our Nation’s heritage.
It offers superlative opportunities for
recreation, for public use and enjoyment,
or for scientific study.
It retains a high degree of integrity as a true,
accurate, and relatively unspoiled example of the resource.
Background significance: Since 1990, a series of
legislation was passed by United States Congress to commemorate
the Underground Railroad, the forgotten chapter in American
history. July 1984 - Dr. Charles L. Blockson, Curator of the
Blockson Collection, Temple University, and who traced his
ancestors via the Underground Railroad from Seaford, Delaware
wrote a front-cover article for National Geographic titled,
Escape From Slavery, the Underground Railroad.
January 1990 - Congressman Peter Kostmayer (PA)
met with Blockson @ Mother Bethel AME Church, Philadelphia and
later introduced the concept of tracing the Underground Railroad
based on Blockson’s research. Kostmayer introduced (HR 3863) &
Senator Paul Simon (IL) introduced in the Senate (SB 2809).
November 28, 1990, Congress enacted Public Law
101-628, which directed the Secretary of the Interior through
National Park Service to conduct a study of alternatives for
commemorating and interpreting the Underground Railroad, and
established the National Underground Railroad Advisory Committee
consisting of nine members throughout the country. Dr. Charles
L. Blockson served as Chair of the committee 1993-95.
Five concepts published in NPS Special Resource
Study were developed to commemorate the Underground Railroad.
The Delaware National Freedom Park would include a combination
of Concepts A, B, C, D and E.
Concept A. Establish a Commemorative,
Interpretive, Educational, & Research Center.
Concept B. Enhance Interpretation & Preservation
of Multiple Sites.
Concept C. Establish National Park System Project
Concept D. Establish a Commemorative Monument
Concept E. Establish Underground Railroad
National Recreation Trail (s).
January 27, 1998 - Congressman Louis Stokes (OH)
sponsored HR 1635. Senator Carol Moseley Braun sponsored in the
U.S. Senate SB 887: An Act to establish within the United States
National Park Service the Underground Railroad Network to
Freedom program, and for other purposes.
July 21, 1998
President William Jefferson Clinton signed PL 105-203. An Act to
establish within the United States National Park Service the
National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program, and
for other purposes.
October 12, 2000
National Park Service Network to Freedom program was launched in
the city of Philadelphia. The Harriet Tubman Historical Society
mailed NPS Network applications to the Northeast Corridor sites;
Delaware Underground Railroad organizations, University of
Delaware, Delaware State University, and the Harriet Tubman
Home, Auburn, New York. The city of Cincinnati is planning to
open a 100 mil Freedom Center in 2004. Why not Delaware, the
first National Freedom Park linking authentic sites both
structural and the natural environment, a perilous trail
traveled by thousands via the forest/woods, swamps, marshes,
waterways and river crossings. The 1848 trial of Thomas Garrett
& John Hunn for aiding the Samuel Hawkins’s family an exhibit on
display at New Castle Court House is an authentic story for
students and visitors. It is time for Delaware to accept the
highest role of historic preservation and moral excellence and
preserve, not only the structures, but the principals and values
of the freedom embraced by the Underground Railroad’s legacy.
The Delaware National
Delaware’s Freedom Trail attracts International
The Harriet Tubman Historical Society in cooperation with the
University of Delaware International Department hosted scholars
throughout the world in regards to Delaware’s Underground
Railroad sites & interpretive programs: Australia, Bangladesh,
Belrus, Brazil, Burma,Costa Rico, Dem. Rep. Of the Congo,
Dominican Republic, *Fulda, Germany, Germany, Ghana, Hungary,
Hankuk University, Korea, India, Indonesia, Moldava, Mozambique,
Nepal, Palestine, Pakistan, Paraguay, Romania, Russia, Senegal,
Slovak Republic, Syria, Turkmenistan, South Africa, Togo,
February 20, 1990 – Senator(s) Joseph Biden (DE)
sponsored (SJR 257), supported by Sen. Bill Roth. Congressman
Thomas Carper (DE) sponsored (HJR 479). President George Bush,
U.S. Congress designated March 10, 1990, Harriet Tubman
Day, PL 101-252. Harriet Tubman Day is celebrated annually
throughout the country and was recently recognized as an annual
celebration by Governor George Pataki, New York.
July 1994. Ms. Barbara Tagger, NPS historian and
Vivian Abdur-Rahim visited & identified several Underground
Railroad sites in Delaware. NPS comment forms were distributed
& completed by site supervisors and returned. Nineteen sites
were published in NPS Special Resource Study - 1995 as a
historic first and beginning for recognition of Delaware’s
February 1999 - Robert Reyes, National Parks
Mid-Atlantic Council, and Ralph Vincent, President’s Street
Station, Baltimore visited the city of Wilmington & contacted
the Harriet Tubman Historical Society. A historic meeting with
James Baker to discuss the state’s Underground Railroad & the
legacy of Thomas Garrett. Reyes & Vincent expressed an interest
in a National Park Site for the state and suggested Old Town
Hall as an excellent site for the state’s first Underground
Railroad National Park Interpretive Center on the Market Street
April 4, 2000 - Senator Charles Schumer
(NY) introduced (SB 2345), to direct the Secretary of the
Interior to conduct a special resource study concerning the
preservation and public use of sites associated with Harriet
Tubman located in Auburn, New York, and for other purposes and
to include sites in the state of Maryland, Senator Paul Sarbanes
(MD). Mr. Houghton and Mrs. Meeks introduced in the House (HR
(PL 106-516) The Harriet Tubman Special Resource
May 10, 2001 Release - Senator Margaret Rose
Henry (DE) sponsored (SB 186) cosponsored by Representatives
Hazel Plant &. Dennis P. Williams signed by Governor Ruth Ann
Minner. An Act to Amend Title 29 of the Delaware Code
Establishing Freedom Trail Historical Monuments. This Bill
directs the Department of State, and its Division of Historical
and Cultural Affairs to recognize sites that evidence the
Freedom Trail in Delaware. The Freedom Trail is the Underground
Railroad, which helped slaves to freedom and other sites
associated with African American Freedom in Delaware. SB 186
provides funding resources for freedom trail historical
monuments and markers in the state.
May 8, 2003 - NPS sponsored a public meeting in
the city of Wilmington to receive comments from the general
public about Harriet Tubman’s trail in Delaware. The Harriet
Tubman Historical Society in support of NPS Harriet Tubman
Special Resource Study Team (Ms. Barbara Mackey) invited
individuals from the state’s three counties. An estimated (80)
“Harriet Tubman made numerous trips through
Delaware after her escape from Maryland, following the Choptank
River route. She described to Siebert in Boston April 8, 1897
including how she made use of stations at Camden, Dover,
Blackbird, Laurel, Millsborough, Concord, Seaford, Georgetown,
Lewes, Milford. Frederica, Smyrna, Delaware City, Middletown,
and New Castle, on her way to Wilmington and Philadelphia.
The Underground Railroad by Charles Blockson
National Park Service Network to Freedom Program
and “Gatherings” are excellent examples of community, public,
and historic preservation organizations actively involved in the
national effort to preserve the Underground Railroad. Funding
resources are needed to continue this valuable program.
June 21, 2002 - Congressional Record:
Representative Mike Castle (DE). “Delaware has a rich heritage
in the underground railroad. There are 18 underground railroad
sites in Delaware including the Governor’s house at Woodburn
where I lived, the courthouse where abolitionists Thomas Garrett
was tried, and numerous other sites utilized by the principal
underground railroad conductor Harriet Tubman…Pursuant to the
National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act of 1998,
Delaware Underground Railroad Coalition is seeking $250,000 to
develop a heritage plan to highlight Delaware’s role in the
October 17, 2002 - Washington, D.C. – Press
Release from U.S. Senators Joseph Biden and Thomas Carper
announced: Delaware Underground Railroad Gets Quarter Million
Boost from Congress. The following statements were
included. “We must protect our history if we are to learn its
lessons. The self- sacrifice of the men and women who manned our
state’s Underground Railroad still inspires Delawareans today”,
Carper said. Senator Biden…calling it an “important symbol for
our nation’s fight for freedom and equality”. “The Underground
Railroad played such an important role in our nation’s history
of this state, It not only symbolized the beginning of the civil
rights movement in this country, but represented the incredible
courage and determination of the men and women who risked their
lives to help hundreds of thousands of slaves escape to freedom.
If we as a nation are to continue to move forward, we cannot
afford to ever lose sight of where we’ve been. The National Park
Service has identified (380) Underground Railroad Sites
nationwide, 19 of which are in Delaware…the timing of the grant
is critical as many sites are in danger of being lost or
Immediate Action is needed to save endangered
sites in the state and preserve
the ancestral home of the Hunn family, Dover.
Wildcat consists of (100) acres and a structure with a caved-in
tunnel believed used for the Underground Railroad. There are
numerous sites for future discovery of the state’s Underground
Railroad sites, structures, interpretive themes, and acts of
resistance. State Historic Preservation Officer(s) continue to
research additional information about the Underground Railroad
following NPS Special Resource Study and the proposal for a
$250,000 Network to Freedom grant.
Summer 2002 - Senator Hillary Rodham
Clinton sponsored (SB-111) and her office contacted the Harriet
Tubman Historical Society about Harriet Tubman’s Civil War
Pension initiated by the Albany Free School, Albany, New York.
Introduced in the House by Rep. Eldolphus Towns, NY., HCON
374. November, 2003 - Press Release: Senator Clinton Secures
Funding to Repay Harriet Tubman Civil War Pension.
Cambridge, Maryland: July 2002. The Harriet
Tubman Museum & Educational Center, 424 Race Street, developed
a proposal to “create the nation’s newest national park”
honoring Harriet Tubman, Dorchester County, Maryland.
July 9, 2002, 3,328 delegates attending the NAACP
Annual Convention unanimously endorsed the creation of the
Harriet Tubman National Park.
The Underground Railroad challenged the human
spirit to extend beyond the complexities of one’s individual
When in the Course of human events--Life Liberty and the Pursuit
became the universal anthem for freedom. The July 1984 National
Geographic article, Kostmayer’s legislation and the National
Celebration of Harriet Tubman Day inspired an awareness and
interest throughout the country, including historians, scholars,
authors, archeologists, collectors, students, and tourism.
The Harriet Tubman Home, Auburn, New York caught
the attention of First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and
received the Save America’s Treasures grant to preserve and
protect the historical site. President Bill Clinton & the First
Lady visited the home (1998), and even traveled to Goree Island,
Senegal to experience the “Door of No Return”, the horrific
exodus of thousands of African families who were shipped out to
travel the wretched middle passage. “America’s struggle to
overcome slavery and its legacy forms one of the most difficult
chapters of that history. Yet, it is also one of the most
heroic—A triumph of courage, persistence, and dignity. The long
journey of African-Americans proves that the spirit can never be
enslaved”. President Bill Clinton, Goree Island.
Vivian Abdur-Rahim, Founder/Director of the
Harriet Tubman Historical Society (DE) served as a member of NPS
Underground Railroad Advisory Committee appointed by the
Secretary of the Department of the Interior 1993-95. She
expressed support for the Underground Railroad study by
attending hearings in May 1991, held by Congressman Peter
Kostmayer, House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,
The Delaware National Park Nomination for the
first National Park Unit is submitted by The Harriet Tubman
Historical Society, Star Hill Historical Society, Lucreatia
Wilson, Director, Willis Phelps, Patricia Phelps, Phyllis Davis,
Heritage Productions, and Honorary Life Members of the Harriet
Tubman Historical Society. Forrest Dixon & Beatrice Patton
Dixon, Honorary Life Members of the Harriet Tubman Historical
Society, Founding Members of Underground Railroad Coalition of
Delaware, Beatrice Patton Dixon, President May, 2000 -
Harriet Tubman Millennium Pilgrimage, Addie Richburg,
References: The Delaware Freedom Land Park was
developed from National Park Service Underground Railroad
Special Resource Study 1995, excerpts from the Declaration of
Independence and the Congressional Record.
Underground Railroad Coalition of Delaware name
was formerly reserved by Vivian Abdur-Rahim & payments of a
monthly fee. Officially incorporated by the present said
Wilmington group 9-18-02. The name was identified by at least
one reservation number for state incorporation # 3434324.
NPS Special Resource Study available at
Wilmington Public Library Reference Department, 10th
& Market Streets, Wilmington, Delaware & other public places.
Freedom Land Park, a national corridor designed to include
authentic sites, waterways, and freedom trails beginning in
southern states en route to Canada. Freedom Land title by the
Hon. Samuel Guy, Wilmington.
National Park Nomination:
Senator Tom Carper
October 30, 2003
Village Complex: Wilmington, Urban Garden of Liberty:
and other dates may vary