Nearly 60 years after it closed its doors, the Harriet Tubman School in Columbia will reopen this weekend, transformed as a cultural and education center to highlight historic contributions of Black Howard County residents.
A public ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center will be held 10:30 a.m., Saturday, at 8045 Harriet Tubman Lane, Columbia.
The cultural center and the former junior/senior high school were named to honor Harriet Tubman, who was born into slavery in Dorchester County, escaped, then took part in more than a dozen missions to rescue 70 other enslaved people via a network of safe houses known as the Underground Railroad in the 1850s.
The foundation, led by 1962 Harriet Tubman School graduate Bessie Bordenave, has championed the school’s history and preservation since 2002.
The Harriet Tubman School was Howard County’s only all-Black high school, operating from 1949 to 1965. After it closed due to desegregation efforts, the Board of Education used the building as a maintenance facility for 50 years.
In October 2015, the Howard County Public School System transferred ownership of the Tubman school site to the county to be preserved as a historic, educational and cultural center.
More than $9.38 million was invested to transform the building, with $7.53 million coming from Howard County and $1.85 million from the state.
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“Our substantial investment in this project reflects our commitment to learning from our past and creating an even brighter future, full of more opportunity for all,” County Executive Calvin Ball said in a statement. “I’m so grateful to the Harriet Tubman Foundation for its ongoing work to preserve our history.”
The completed cultural center includes a recreated classroom and principal’s office, artwork and photographic displays and historical exhibits as well as rentable spaces, including a 1,700-square-foot multipurpose room, an auditorium and a recording studio.
The county’s Department of Recreation and Parks will operate the facility. Visit howardcountymd.gov/recreation-parks/htcc to learn more.