Press Release Mar 25, 2013

National Parks Group Applauds President Obama for Enhancing National Park System with Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad, First State, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monuments

Statement by NPCA President Tom Kiernan

“The National Parks Conservation Association applauds President Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act today, to designate the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad, First State, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monuments into our National Park System. These important additions to our National Park System would not be possible without the generosity of The Conservation Fund, which donated the 1,500 acres comprising the Woodlawn portion of the First State national monument and the land donated to form the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Dorchester County, Maryland. As we look to the 2016 centennial celebration of our National Park System, diversifying our national parks to more adequately reflect our cultural heritage, and connecting urban populations to our national parks are important goals that we share with the Administration and the National Park Service. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad, First State, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monuments create our 399th, 400th, and 401st national park sites, and enhance our National Park System, from the inside and out.”

“Harriet Tubman remains one of America’s most beloved and respected icons, but little is publicly shared about the courage and conviction she had for her people and her country that made her such a legend. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument will enhance public understanding of her life as an enslaved woman who became the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad as well as a nurse, spy, and scout for the Union army during the Civil War. We also thank Governor Martin O’ Malley and Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski for their efforts to honor the legacy of Harriet Tubman at the national level it deserves. We will continue to support legislative action that will help share the full story of Harriet Tubman’s inspiring and fearless life and work, through additional national park sites in Auburn, New York.”

“The First State national monument would not be possible without the steadfast support of Senator Carper, who, along with the entire Delaware delegation, and Vice President Joe Biden, has spent years championing this park site’s development. Today, President Obama fulfilled a vision set more than a century ago by William Poole Bancroft, who purchased the land just north of downtown Wilmington and less than an hour from Philadelphia, with the foresight of preserving an urban oasis in the Brandywine Creek corridor. The monument also commemorates the legacy and perseverance of early Dutch, Swedish, and English settlement in Delaware, a vital but little known aspect of our First State’s rich history.”

“The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio is a well-deserved honor for the third African American to graduate from West Point, and the first to serve as an acting national park superintendent, when he managed Sequoia National Park in 1903. Colonel Young was a Civil Rights pioneer and an American patriot. We also acknowledge Senator Sherrod Brown and Senator Rob Portman’s ongoing legislative support for including Colonel Young’s home in the National Park System.”

“Today’s Antiquities Act proclamations will also ensure that the economic benefits of job creation, heritage tourism, education, tax credits, and preservation initiatives found in our national parks will be conveyed to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, throughout the state of Delaware, and in southern Ohio. In fact, according to the National Park Service, every dollar invested in national parks generates about $10 in return to economies across America.”

Click here to view supporting comments from community leaders and organizations. All quotes are available for media use.

Background, Harriet Tubman:

Harriet Ross Tubman endured backbreaking work, long periods of separation from her family and loved ones, and brutal treatment meted out by her owners and overseers. After successfully escaping in October of 1849, Tubman bravely jeopardized her own freedom, in fact her very life, to return to Maryland’s Eastern Shore on many occasions to liberate members of her family, friends, and strangers. On at least one important occasion she was aided in this work by Jacob Jackson, a literate free black man who lived on the Eastern Shore near Madison, Maryland.

In December of 1854, Jackson received and decoded a letter Harriet Tubman had drafted by a friend indicating the place and time when she would return to Maryland to free her brothers who were in danger of being sold further south. Jackson passed the word of Harriet’s arrival along to Robert, Ben, and Henry, who joined with a handful of others on Christmas Day 1854 to start the perilous, but ultimately successful, journey from slavery to freedom.

The 480-acre Jacob Jackson Home Site was purchased by The Conservation Fund in 1993 and donated to the National Park Service, thus enabling President Barack Obama to use the Antiquities Act to designate the property a national monument. The Harriet Tubman national monument, encompassing 9,000 acres of land, creates partnership opportunities between the National Park Service, Maryland State Parks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and local community partners.

Background, Delaware Monument:

Woodlawn property in New Castle County, Delaware, and Delaware County, Pennsylvania

The Brandywine River flows through New Castle County, Delaware into the Delaware River and tells much of early America’s history along the way. From the Native American Lenape tribe that lived in the valley of the river to the Wyeth family of artists who still paint its beautiful landscapes, the Brandywine is truly one of the founding rivers of our nation. The largest battle of the revolutionary war, the Battle of the Brandywine, was fought along its banks and the birth of industry was literally propelled by the river’s steady flow. Even the paper used to print the Declaration of Independence was made on the Brandywine River.

The Rockford Woodlawn property is positioned in the center of the Brandywine corridor and provides the perfect opportunity to interpret the many elements of the Brandywine story. The 1,100-acre property was purchased by William Bancroft at the turn of the century and has been carefully managed and preserved as open space since that time. Through its inclusion in the Delaware National Monument, the Woodlawn property helps create a continuous stretch of approximately ten miles of protected riverfront from the Delaware/Pennsylvania line to the City of Wilmington. Over five million people live within 25 miles of the Woodlawn property, making it readily accessible to the public and a conservation centerpiece for the state and region.

The story of the Brandywine has tremendous national significance on many levels. As home to the river, Delaware is in a unique position to share the story and the Woodlawn property provides the perfect platform.

Dover Green in Kent County, Delaware

The Green is a historical park located in old downtown Dover near the old Kent County Courthouse and the Old State House. Delaware voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution at The Green, which now hosts events through the year is located within walking distance to other historic sites in the capital city.

Old Sherriff’s House in New Castle County, Delaware

The site includes a the sheriff’s house, a two story jail and related jailyard sites. The site includes a state of William Penn, who in 1683 became the proprietor of Pennsylvania and its three lower counties (Delaware). Penn granted 1,000 acres outside of town in 1701 for common land for “the use and behoof of the citizens of New Castle”. Across from the sheriff’s house is the Presbyterian Church, one of seven which organized the first Presbytery in American in 1706.

Old New Castle Courthouse in New Castle, Delaware

One of the oldest courthouses in the United States.The New Castle Court House is also Delaware’s first capital building and meeting place for the colonial and first state Assembly. On June 15, 1776, the legislature passed a resolution to separate from Pennsylvania and Great Britain, creating the Delaware State.

Two months later, September 20, 1776, the first constitution for the Delaware State was adopted. In 1777, the capital moved to Dover.

The Court House cupola was designated in 1732 as the center of the 12-mile circular boundary, which created Delaware’s unique curved northern border.

Significant events took place at the New Castle Court House involving slavery and the Underground Railroad, including the trials of abolitionists Thomas Garrett and John Hunn. In 2003, the New Castle Court House was designated as a National Historic Underground Railroad Site by the U.S. Department of Interior and awarded inclusion in the Nation Park Service Network to Freedom Program.

Background, Colonel Charles Young:

In 1884, Second Lieutenant Charles Young became just the third African American to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After deployments in the west with the Ninth U.S. Cavalry the War Department assigned Young to serve as a professor of Military Science and Tactics at Wilberforce University in Ohio in 1894. The army’s first choice Lieutenant John Alexander, the second African American to graduate from West Point and a more veteran officer, had died suddenly after less than a month on the job.

Because the American military in the 19th century was rigidly segregated and there were few command opportunities for black officers like Young, the chance to command and instruct a cadet corps at Wilberforce was a choice assignment. Young relished the position and volunteered to serve as an instructor of French, Chemistry, Descriptive Geometry, and Geology, as well as Military Science and Tactics. He appears to have been well-regarded by his students and peers.

After the death of his father Gabriel in June 1894, Young’s mother Arminta moved to the Wilberforce area to live with her son. The two purchased a large, two-story brick house on the Columbia Pike one mile from the Wilberforce campus and just outside the city limits of Xenia, Ohio. Charles Young named the house “Youngsholm” and it quickly became a much-loved gathering place for students, friends, and members of the burgeoning black intelligentsia including a young Wilberforce professor named W.E.B. Du Bois and an aspiring poet and friend of the Wright Brothers, Paul Lawrence Dunbar.

Young would rise through the ranks from Second Lieutenant to Colonel and serve his country in such varied capacities as an acting superintendent at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park (1903), an officer in the punitive expeditions against Pancho Villa in Mexico (1916), and as a military attache’ to Monrovia, Liberia (1920). Despite his travels Young always regarded the house in Xenia as his home. Colonel Charles Young died in Lagos, Nigeria, on January 8, 1922, at the age of 58. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.


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