While the Harriet Tubman Museum in Cape May isn’t officially open yet, they are having a “virtual” opening today, on Juneteenth.

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The museum had been scheduled to have its grand opening on June 19th, or Juneteenth, for over a year, but with the pandemic restrictions, museums are not allowed to be open yet, so a virtual opening will have to do. Cape May played an important role in the Underground Railroad that Tubman used to smuggle slaves to freedom. According to the museum, Tubman lived in Cape May in the 1850s, working there to raise funds for her enterprise of helping fugitive slaves escape to the North. Tubman often led slaves to Philadelphia for their freedom (she herself had escaped slavery in Maryland by going to Philadelphia), later taking them to Canada to avoid capture under the Fugitive Slave Act: that legislation gave wide latitude to slave owners to reclaim escaped slaves, even in free states.

Harriet Tubman returned to Cape May, however, knowing she could find work there in hotels. According to Cape May Magazine, there is no definitive record of exactly how often she was in Cape May or the particular hotels where she is said to have worked, but it is believed she was there at least intermittently from 1850-52. It is believed, in total, that she rescued at least 70 slaves via the Underground Railroad.

As quoted in the Courier Post, the organizers of the museum said, "The Harriet Tubman Museum has been organized to recognize Harriet Tubman's courage, compassion and conviction as well as the history of abolitionist activism in Cape May and its surrounding region,” and that the museum’s mission is "to educate the community about abolitionist activism, the Underground Railroad, and the history of the African American community in Cape May and the surrounding area."

The virtual grand opening will be held on both the museum’s Facebook page and on their YouTube channel.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.