The Harriet Tubman Museum will open virtually in Cape May this Juneteenth as a tribute to the iconic women’s suffragist’s life and work in the abolitionist movement. Smithsonian Magazine named it one of the most highly anticipated museum openings of 2020.
Why Cape May? Though Tubman—abolitionist, women’s suffragist, spy and former slave—was a Maryland native, she spent much time in this shore town raising money to help carry out rescues of about 70 slaves via her Underground Railroad. Cape May County is said to have been part of the Railroad’s course along the east coast, making it easier for escapees to make their way north. Tubman spent time in both NJ and Philadelphia in the early 1850s working as a cook and in other roles to help raise funds for more rescue missions.
The museum shines a spotlight on Tubman’s life and contribution to the Underground Railroad and the abolitionist movement as a whole. Visitors will be able to see objects including a first-edition autographed printing of The Underground Railroad Records, an 1872 book by abolitionist leader William Still, plus artwork by local African American artists.
The building in which the museum will be housed at Howell House, formerly the parsonage for Macedonia Baptist Church which still owns the property. After nearly 40 years of deterioration and abandonment, a lease was signed to rent the house from the church in order to renovate the building. The restoration will stay true to how the building was prior to the 19th century. Guests will also get to see African art pieces that belonged to the church’s late pastor, Reverend Robert Davis.
Juneteenth (June 19) is the date that commemorates the end of US slavery. The museum is located at 632 Lafayette St. in Cape May.
Since New Jersey’s museums have not yet opened due to COVID-19, the virtual opening will take place on Facebook from 3-4:30 pm. There’ll be a virtual tour, a discussion on the preservation of Black cultural heritage sites, music and more.
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