Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad

Details

  • DesignationAll-American Road (2009)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesCultural, Historic
  • LocationMD
  • Length125 miles
Byway Visitor Information
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway
Statewide Byway Partners
Maryland Byways Foldable Map - Download
Maryland Office of Tourism Development
Harriet Tubman Mural by Michael Rosato.
Jill Jasuta Photo

Overview

Discover history and a new meaning for Freedom following along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad All American Road. Begin in Cambridge and discover a series of museums, home sites, meeting houses, and other landscapes that take travelers back to the 1850s. Visitors will learn about how Harriet Tubman came to be hailed as the “Moses of Her People” alongside the many other heroes of the Underground Railroad.

Local Byway Partners

Story of the Byway

Following the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad All American Road, visitors will explore the secret network of trails, waterways, and safehouses used by enslaved people fleeing north to escape slavery. Hailed as the “Moses of Her People,” Harriet Tubman was a heroic leader in the fight against slavery. Her selfless efforts helped more than 70 enslaved people make their way north by way of the Underground Railroad. This Eastern Shore byway traverses a region abundant with African-American heritage, following a mostly northern path across a landscape that has changed little in the 150 years since Tubman and others risked their lives for freedom.

Visitors will begin at the Cambridge-based Visitor center at Sailwinds Park East, where staff members offer insight into the historic landmarks that visitors will encounter along the way. What lies outside, beyond the Choptank River Bridge, are museums, home sites, meeting houses and other landscapes that take travelers back to the 1850s. While in Cambridge, visitors should make stops at the Dorchester County Courthouse, which was once the site of slave auctions and trials, and the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center, dedicated to preserving Tubman’s legacy as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. Those seeking a break from the history will enjoy Cambridge for its convenient entry points to recreational opportunities in the water as the town is part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network.

As visitors continue west toward Bucktown, they should be sure to stop at the Stanley Institute, a one-room African-American school established by the newly freed black community, just after the Civil War. Visitors will explore Madison, where Tubman learned navigation and survival skills while working beside her father, Ben Ross, and drive over Joseph Stewart's Canal, hand-dug by enslaved people and used to transport timber. Visitors can’t miss hours discovering Tubman’s life and legacy at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, where visitors can become immersed in Harriet Tubman’s world through informative and evocative exhibits. The center is the perfect place to become oriented to sites along the byway where Harriet's life unfolded. The new national historical park preserves the landscape where Tubman carried herself and others away from slavery. Outdoor lovers will enjoy a stop at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, where visitors can choose from a multitude of water trails. As visitors make their way into Bucktown, discover a village store where, as a teenager, Tubman in her first act of defiance, was nearly killed when she tried to help an enslaved man avoid capture. Meanwhile, guided historic and nature tours, as well as bike, canoe and kayak rentals, are also offered in Bucktown.

As visitors return north to the East New Market National Historic District, they should stop for antiques shopping along the way and then take a self-guided walking tour amid fine examples of 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century architecture. Visitors should keep an eye out for Faith Community United Methodist Church, which was built in 1880 on land deeded four decades earlier to a group of African-American trustees, including the Rev. Samuel Green, a free black farmer and Underground Railroad agent. Visitors will continue to Linchester, the home of a historic grist mill that employed both free and enslaved African Americans. A strong Quaker settlement in this area is revealed through the home of Jacob and Hannah Leverton, Quaker abolitionists, and at the site of a former Quaker meeting house at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, likely a hiding place along the Underground Railroad. The village of Choptank Landing on Poplar Neck is just down the road from Linchester in Preston. Here is where Tubman led some of her most dangerous rescues from Anthony Thompson’s Plantation. She liberated herself, then returned to rescue her brothers and later her parents from this very area. Visitors should walk over the bridge at Marsh Creek and imagine Tubman escaping in the night with her charges.

Near the town of Preston, the 1852 James Webb Cabin is the only surviving pre-Civil War log dwelling on the Eastern Shore known to be constructed by and for an African American. Built on ballast stones from ships, the cabin stands along what may have been an Underground Railroad route used by Harriet Tubman and her parents.The next stop is Denton, which holds many ties to the Underground Railroad. Courthouse Square was the site of a slave market and a jail that held Underground Railroad conductors. The nearby Tuckahoe Neck Meeting House was built in 1803 and featured prominent Quaker women speakers who knew Tubman. The Museum of Rural Life includes exhibits about the Underground Railroad and local African Americans.Visitors who wish to continue exploring the stories of those fighting for freedom should head west on MD 404 at Denton to learn about Frederick Douglass, the famous 19th-century orator and statesman who began his autobiography, “I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about 12 miles from Easton.” See where Douglass began his journey through St. Michaels, Annapolis, Baltimore, and other points along the Chesapeake Bay, to finally escape his enslavement to become an abolitionist leader.

Driving Directions

The byway begins in Cambridge and follows country roads, first going westward toward Madison. Visitors will make their way through Madison and Bucktown before heading north through East New Market, Linchester, Choptank Landing, Preston, Denton, Greensboro, and Goldsboro. From Denton, visitors have the option to take a detour west on MD 404 to Hillsborough to learn more about Frederick Douglass.

Points of Interest

  • Museum of Rural Life

    The Museum of Rural Life depicts historical lifestyles of rural Caroline County and includes the Taylor-Brown Dwelling, the Painter's Range log cabin and portions of the Chance's Desire and Skillington's Right properties.

  • Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center and State Park

    The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center commemorates the life and legacy of the legendary abolitionist through informative and evocative exhibits.

  • Stanley Institute

    The Stanley Institute is one of Maryland's oldest schools organized and maintained by an African-American community, now a museum.

Itinerary

  • The Historic Northern Underground Railroad

    Your journey begins inside the Cambridge-based Visitor Center at Sailwinds Park East, where staff members offer insight into the historic landmarks you encounter along the way. Visit the Dorchester County Courthouse, which was once the site of slave auctions and trials. Just a short walk away is the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center, dedicated to preserving Tubman’s legacy as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. After the museum, enjoy pleasant dining, galleries and shopping.

    Following the byway west, you will discover the Stanley Institute, a one-room African-American school established by the newly freed black community, just after the Civil War. From here, follow State Route 16 southwest toward Madison.

    In Madison, Tubman learned navigation and survival skills while working beside her father, Ben Ross. Drive over Joseph Stewart's Canal, hand-dug by enslaved people and used to transport timber. Next, stop and spend several hours discovering Tubman’s life and legacy at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center where you will find immersive and emotive exhibits, programs and tours.

    From Madison, return to State Route 335 to head south for about 15 miles to Bucktown. In Bucktown, there’s a Village Store where, as a teenager, Tubman in her first act of defiance, was nearly killed when she tried to help an enslaved man avoid capture. Meanwhile, guided historic and nature tours, as well as bike, canoe and kayak rentals, are also offered in Bucktown. While in the town, take advantage of the many dining and lodging options.

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