Bicentennial Tribute to Harriet Tubman Planned for New Year’s Day

At noon on New Year’s Day 2022, a solitary bell will ring 200 times at the Military Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery to mark the years since the birth of Harriet Tubman. While her exact date and location of birth is disputed, many scholars record the year as 1822, based on a midwife payment and several other historical documents. 

Among her many honors, Ms. Tubman is recognized as the first woman to lead a major military operation in the United States and the first African American woman to serve in the U.S. military. Her life is one of the treasured stories preserved in the Military Women’s Memorial. 

A historic bell commissioned for the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPAR that is housed in the Memorial’s collection will be sounded once by a special surprise guest, with the remaining 199 tolls rung by Veteran American Servicewomen from each of the Armed Forces. The resolute tolling will last approximately 25 minutes. Descendants of Ms. Tubman’s family are expected to attend.

The event is part of the National Bell Festival and is free and open to the public. Space is limited and advanced registration is required.

About Harriet Tubman

Born into slavery as Araminta Ross in 1822, Harriet Tubman’s early life was defined by forced work and isolation. She toiled in the marshlands on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for her enslaver, suffered a debilitating head wound that left her with life-long hypersomnia, and watched as one family member after another were sold off to other estates.

Seeing an opportunity when her enslaver, Edward Brodess, died, Ms. Tubman fled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1849. Over the next decade, she returned to Maryland 13 times to liberate more than 70 family members and friends from bondage. Dubbed “Moses” for leading her people to freedom, she famously never lost a passenger on her secretive, nighttime escapes on the Underground Railroad.

On the marriage to her first husband, a free Black man named John Tubman, she changed her name to that of her mother: Harriet. She has the distinction of being the first African American woman in the U.S. military, having served as a scout, spy, guerrilla soldier, and nurse for the Union Army during the Civil War. In one of her most dramatic pursuits of the war, Ms. Tubman planned and led an armed raid with the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment (comprising African-Americans) along the Combahee River, freeing more than 750 people from slavery.

About the Military Women’s Memorial

The Military Women’s Memorial is a one-of-a-kind tribute to America’s Servicewomen, past and present, featuring interactive exhibits and a world-class collection of military women’s stories and artifacts – all housed in a stunning colonnade of marble arcs and fountains at the head of Memorial Drive, the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery.

Image: View of the Military Women’s Memorial with Arlington House in the distance.