New Jersey's 1st Legislative District

Senator Michael Testa

Senator Michael Testa

LD1 Team Bill Designating Cape May’s Howell House as New Jersey’s Harriet Tubman Museum Advances

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One of the oldest houses in Cape May will be recognized as the Harriet Tubman Museum in New Jersey under bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Michael Testa and cleared by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.

Legislation sponsored by Senator Testa and Assemblymen McClellan and Simonsen that would designate the historic Howell House in Cape May as the Harriet Tubman Museum in New Jersey is advancing in the Legislature. (SenateNJ.com)

The bill, S-2585, establishes the Howell House on Cape May’s Lafayette Street to honor Tubman, a legendary abolitionist and advocate for women’s voting rights.

“This is a fitting tribute to an incredibly tireless and unwavering woman who played significant roles in two historic societal advancements that changed American society forever,” said Testa, who sponsors the bill with Senators Ronald L. Rice and Shirley K. Turner.

“Harriet Tubman believed in the equality of all people, black or white, male or female, and her impact on the world as we know it cannot be overstated. From escaping a life of slavery, to risking her life to free other slaves, to serving as a cook, nurse and armed scout for the Union Army during the Civil War, to energizing the women’s rights movement, the Harriet Tubman story should be available to everyone. Anchoring the state’s museum in Cape May will help ensure her contributions are never forgotten,” Testa said.

Tubman made her home in Cape May briefly, working in hotels and clubs to earn money for her heroic rescue missions to the south. More than a dozen dangerous trips resulted in freedom for many former slaves.

“Most folks in New Jersey do not realize the history Cape May County played in Underground Railroad, let alone that Harriet Tubman once called it home,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex). “Tubman is a giant of American history and I am proud to sponsor the state’s dedication of this house to her legacy. I want to thank Senator Testa and Assemblyman McClellan for giving me an opportunity to be a part of this historic piece of legislation.”

The Assembly version of the bill is sponsored by Testa’s district mates, Assemblymen Antwan McClellan and Erik Simonsen.

“Harriet Tubman’s footprint on our community is everlasting,” Assemblyman McClellan said. “I am blessed to see the day where we can honor such an American hero right here in our back yard. Our neighbors came together with a wonderful idea to honor Harriet’s memory, but also pass down her legacy for local school kids to learn the impacts of slavery and the need for equality.”

Assemblyman Simonsen noted that when he was the Mayor of Lower Township  he spoke on behalf of the project to ensure the community was able to receive the bonds for the renovation project.

“I am beyond proud of the hard work our community has done to renovate the Howell House in Cape May. This historic property honors Harriet Tubman’s role as an abolitionist who saved approximately 70 individuals from the hands of slavery,” Assemblyman Simonsen said. “Seeing the Howell House in Cape May County recognized as a museum in honor of Harriet Tubman will be historical for this legislative district.”

The museum will be located in the Howell House, built in 1850 and one of the senior structures in the seaside town known for its historic and distinctive buildings.

The museum is located at 632 Lafayette Street, “on a block that anti-slavery activists called home in Cape May,” according to HarrietTubmanMuseum.org. “Lafayette Street and Franklin Street became a center of abolitionist activity centered around three important buildings developed in 1846.”

The home was owned by Joseph Howell, a Quaker from Philadelphia, and willed to the historic Macedonia Baptist Church.

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