Local historian donates Tubman artifacts to Smithsonian

    A local historian has donated his collection of Harriet Tubman objects to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

    A local historian has donated his collection of Harriet Tubman objects to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. The artifacts will be part of a new African-American museum slated to open on the National Mall in 2015.
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    Harriet Tubman was an escaped slave who then helped many other fugitive slaves reach freedom on the Underground Railroad.

    The artifacts include Harriet Tubman’s well-worn book of hymns, her cooking utensils, even a photo of her lying in her coffin. Tubman’s great-grand-niece gave them to Charles Blockson, a founder of the Philadelphia African-American Museum. He also has a collection of historic objects at Temple University. But Blockson says he wanted these 39 Tubman peices to be in Washington on the National Mall.

    “It’s important to make sure her legacy is preserved – I can’t think of a better place than the mall,” Blockson said. “I could have donated it to other places, but her spirit guided me where to donate it.”

    Smithsonian curator Jaqueline Serwer said she is touched by Blockson’s generosity.

    “He has his own collection – and could have decided to keep this as part of his collection he put together there,” Serwer said. “Instead he said he received them and thought and thought and prayed and came to the conclusion they ought to be in the Smithsonian.”

    Harriett Tubman also served as a Union spy during the Civil War, but right now there are no plans to display her artifacts as part of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which begins next year.

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