As Black History Month comes to a close, the Jersey Cape is inviting people to explore the Harriet Tubman Museum in Cape May- the “small museum with a big story.”
The museum was a 19th-century parish house formerly associated with the adjacent Macedonia Baptist Church. It opened in September 2020, though public tours have yet to begin because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the official Harriet Tubman Museum of New Jersey, it features displays about Tubman’s life, the abolitionist movement in Cape May and the contributions of local African Americans.
Museum executive director Cynthia Mullock and president Lynda Anderson-Towns is now on the museums new “Escape to the Jersey Cape” podcast this week with host Cleve Bryan to talk about Tubman, the museum and Black History Month.
“This museum is the culmination of an incredible community effort to preserve, explore and rejoice in our community’s history, and in particular the African American community’s history in Cape May,” says Mullock. “We’re looking forward to opening the physical museum in 2021, but we’re just as excited to work with people and digital classrooms around the world with new virtual tours and events.”
“We grew up in a Cape May that had around 30% African American families and we’ve since seen that disappear, so we see this museum from a different light. We see it as a chance to remind Cape May that we were here. Not only was Harriet Tubman here, but we were here,” says Anderson-Towns. “We will tell the story and it makes us a better person for listening and trying to understand things like why aren’t the African American lifeguards in Cape May anymore.”
The New Jersey Historical Commission says Harriet Tubman spend several summers living in Cape May in the early 1850s, working as a cook and domestic servant to help fund her missions to guide enslaved people to freedom.
The Harriet Tubman Museum building known as the Howell House that is located near the corner of Lafayette Street and Franklin Street, an area that anti-slavery activists called home in Cape May. In September 2020, the Howell House was designated as the official New Jersey Harriet Tubman Museum.