The location of Harriet Tubman’s birthplace had long been unknown, but a press release on Tuesday from the Governor of Maryland’s office revealed that the foundations of her childhood home had been discovered.
A team of archaeologists led by Maryland Department of Transportation Chief Archaeologist Julie Schablitsky have been excavating the Thompson Farm, where Tubman was raised, for two years, hoping to uncover the homes of the 40 or so enslaved people who lived there. The home of Ben Ross, Tubman’s father, was eventually found on private property near the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
The brick foundation of a home was excavated, along with hundreds of small items including buttons, pottery fragments, a West African spirit cache, and a glass heart-shaped stopper, which was typically placed in front of the fireplace to prevent the entrance of bad spirits.
The discovery follows years of investment into uncovering and displaying Tubman’s personal history and that of the Underground Railroad.
“Such painstaking work excavating and reassembling the shattered remnants of such a nuanced and, for far too many, nightmarish past, act as a bridge to both self-empowerment and transcendence for an oppressed people, and of much-needed heightened awareness, empathy understanding, and personal growth by the community—and indeed, the nation at large,” said Douglas Mitchell, Ben Ross’s great-great-great-grandson, in the release.
“To underestimate the value and the importance of Dr. Schablitsky’s work here is to underestimate the capacity and the will of the human spirit for redemption, renewal and self-empowerment,” he continued.
Findings from the excavation will soon be on display at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center.