Backyard History

Last month, I took a quick trip up the Eastern Shore to Salisbury, Maryland, and then on to Annapolis to visit with family. I hadn’t been over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel for years. Hampton Roads was its bustling self, of course, but the traffic fell away as I headed north on Route 13, over and under the Bay, touching down briefly on Fisherman’s Island where my husband and I once took a nature walk to see terns, and then onto the Delmarva peninsula.

I was immediately reminded of the experience of taking the Jamestown Scotland Ferry from Williamsburg to Surry: you leave suburbia behind and find yourself in the rural South, fields dotted with small houses and barns, chickens wandering the front yard with a row or two of collards in a winter garden, and, in the few small towns, a post office, gas station and dollar store. I could have been driving along a road near my own home except for the flatness that reached to the horizon.

Harriet Tubman Statue

Both Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass were Eastern Shore natives. I didn’t have time to visit the sites on the Harriet Tubman Byway and the road to the National Historical Park was flooded, but I did visit the Harriet Tubman Statue on the grounds of Salisbury University in Salisbury, Maryland. The sign features a quote from Douglass about Tubman: “The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witness of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism.” For good reading about Tubman, I can recommend The Tubman Command, a historical fiction biography of this fascinating woman that gets beyond the myth and includes details about the raid at Combahee Ferry in South Carolina, which Tubman led and which freed over 700 slaves.

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