By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
CAPE MAY – Gov. Phil Murphy cut the ribbon Thursday (Sept. 17) to the new lasting legacy to abolitionist Harriet Tubman during her remarkable life freeing slaves from the South.
Tubman lived in Cape May in the early 1850s, funding her missions by working at local hotels and with local families as a cook. Murphy was joined by many local dignitaries in Cape May County, including Congressional candidate Amy Kennedy and Cape May County NAACP President Alexander Bland.
Known as the Howell House, at 632 Lafayette St., the museum is owned by Macedonia Baptist Church. In 2018, the church gave Robert, Zach, and Cynthia Mullock permission to renovate the house into a museum honoring Tubman.
The museum had opened virtually on June 19 recognizing Juneteenth.
“Harriet Tubman’s extraordinary efforts helped establish and run the Underground Railroad, and her fearless actions during her lifetime led to the freedom of many,” Murphy said in a statement. “I am proud of the role that New Jersey and Cape May were able to play in her mission to free Black men, women, and children from slavery. This is just one small step in acknowledging the plight and struggle of the Black community, and we will continue to recognize and fight against all forms of racism.”
Local journalist and author Barbara Dreyfuss researched and wrote most of the materials in the exhibits.
“These are about the Underground Railroad and the abolitionists who were here in Cape May when Harriet Tubman was,” Dreyfuss, who attended the ceremony, told Front Runner New Jersey.com.
Assemblyman Antwan McClellan, R-Ocean City, whose district covers Cape May, said he was proud there is a location in South Jersey where people can learn about Tubman’s extraordinary efforts, calling her “an American hero.”
“The more we learn about the Underground Railroad and the dangers faced, the more we understand the heroic, brave actions of the men and women who worked to abolish slavery,” said McClellan.
McClelland was one of the sponsors for a bill establishing the museum in a truly bipartisan affair along with Assembly members Carol A. Murphy, D-Cinnaminson, and Gordon M. Johnson, D-Edgewood, and Senators Ronald L. Rice, D-Newark, Michael L. Testa, R-Vineland, and Shirley K. Turner, D-Ewing.
“Harriet Tubman was a hero who not only freed herself, but returned to the South over a dozen times to lead at least 70 other slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Despite personal health problems and the threat of enslavement or death if caught, she courageously risked her own life in order to rescue others from slavery,” said Carol Murphy and Johnson in a joint statement.
Testa added: “Harriet Tubman was fiercely committed to equality for all people, black or white, male or female. Through her tireless persistence, this determined woman helped bring about two historic society advancements that changed American society forever – she personally helped lead dozens of southern slaves to freedom in the north, and she was instrumental in the women’s suffrage movement.”
Kennedy, a Democrat running against incumbent Jeff Van Drew for the Congress’s District 2 seat, which cover Cape May said Tubman was fitting of the honor.
“Harriet Tubman embodies many of the virtues we strive for: selflessness, sacrifice and courage,” she told Front Runner New Jersey. “It was an honor to be a part of the opening of the Harriet Tubman Museum and to remember her legacy alongside so many community leaders. The museum is an incredible addition to the Cape May community and I can’t wait to return.”
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