President Obama has designated Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument a national park. It is one of five sites that will be designated national parks as a result of the Antiquities Act. The other four are Delaware’s First State National Monument, Ohio’s Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, the Río Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico, and the San Juan Islands National Monument in Washington State.
The Antiquities Act itself was actually signed originally by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. It grants presidents the authority to preserve and protect public lands and historic landmarks.
The White House released a statement regarding its choice of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument as one of America’s newest national parks:
“The monument commemorates the life of the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad who was responsible for helping enslaved people escape from bondage to freedom. The new national park, located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, includes large sections of landscapes that are significant to Tubman’s early life in Dorchester County and evocative of her life as a slave and conductor of the Underground Railroad. The park includes Stewart’s Canal, dug by hand by free and enslaved people between 1810 and the 1830s and where Tubman learned important outdoor skills when she worked in the nearby timbering operations with her father. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and Refuge lands, although park of the new national park, will continue to be managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument also includes the home site of Jacob Jackson, a free black man who used coded letters to help Tubman communicate with family and others. The monument will also partner with the State of Maryland’s Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park Visitor Center when it opens in 2015.”