Talking to People. Telling Stories.

Where was Harriet Tubman born?

Nobody knows.

Well, that's only partly true.

Harriet Tubman was the daughter of Benjamin (Ben) and Harriet (Rit) Ross. Ben was an enslaved person on the Thompson farm just outside Dorchester County, and archeologists are currently working the land on and around the location of the Thompson farm trying to get a more solid understanding of where Rit gave birth to Araminta, who would later be known as Harriet Tubman. It is largely believed Araminta was born in Ben's cabin. But one thing is for sure... Harriet Tubman's early years were spent in Dorchester County as an enslaved person under the ownership of Edward Brodress. Today, Dorchester County - Church Creek, Maryland specifically - is the location of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park.

I live about 50 minutes southeast of the park, and I take route 50 east to get there. I left early on the morning of my scheduled interview with Lawson Nwakudo, a guide at the park, because I didn't want to be late. I gave myself an extra hour just in case there was a traffic backup or other unplanned event that would cause my delay.

There wasn't. There rarely is in this part of the world.

Knowing it was unlikely I'd meet any delay, I planned for a detour - a scheduled stop - on the way to the museum. I wanted to see the Bucktown General Store. In learning about her, I'd come to believe there was no more pivotal moment in her life than the one that happened at the grocery store on Bucktown Road when Minty was 12 years young.

Terrible Aim and a Terrible Wound

She'd been sent to the store by the person she was working for that day. Her owner, Edward Brodess would often rent out Araminta and the other people he held enslaved. It's been said that Minty preferred the outdoor work rather than that of the household. This allowed for her to be out and about more. This was the case at the store on Bucktown road.

This is a 2-pound weight at the Bucktown General Store. It doesn't seem like much until you hold it and consider how it would feel if it hit you in the head.

As the story goes, upon arrival she found a an enslaved boy in the midst of a confrontation with another man. The boy had left his plantation without permission and his overseer had caught up and was engaged in a heated argument with him. When the boy tried to flee, the overseer demanded Minty help prevent him from escaping. She refused. At this point, the overseer picked up a 2-pound weight used to weigh produce and threw it at the boy. His aim was terrible, apparently, and the weight hit Minty in the head, cracking her skull and causing damage to her brain.

From this point on, Araminta (later Harriet) would suffer from seizures or would fall asleep at a moment's notice. In the his podcast episode with Delmarva's Own, Nwakudo explained it is widely believed by scientists and doctors that the damage to Minty's brain caused her to suffer from narcolepsy and epilepsy for the remainder of her life.

The Bucktown General Store where Harriet Tubman sustained a severe head injury as a child. The counter within the store is the same counter where "Minty" would have purchased goods.

To be sure, these challenges would have been difficult for anyone to overcome. Not only did Minty have to deal with the physical damage, she also dealt with the additional denigration of her owner who told her, as a young child, that she wasn't worth any more than a sixpence to him. He tried unsuccessfully to sell Araminta. Nobody wanted a little slave-girl with a brain injury who kept falling asleep on the job.

Eventually Araminta was able to work hard at the same physical jobs she'd had as a child. Further, she learned how to drive oxen and fell timber, all the time learning to adjust to her new episodes of seizures. Perhaps this is because while some looked at the seizures as physical oddities, Minty began to experience them as communications with God. She insisted it was during these times that she spoke with God and God spoke with her.

We know that Minty eventually married a man with the last name Tubman. She then took her mother's name, Harriet, and became Harriet Tubman.

One might wonder what would have become of Harriet if she'd not suffered a brain injury as a child. Perhaps she would have done everything she did even without the injury.

Much has been made about Tubman's work as a conductor on the underground railroad, and rightly so. She personally guided over 70 souls to freedom as a conductor. Her work continued during the Civil War when "General" Tubman guided over 700 enslaved people to freedom as a part of an operation during the Civil War.

Nwakudo and I focused on the life of Tubman before her escape. It seemed appropriate for a podcast about Delmarva.

You can listen this episode here, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Dr. Clara L. Small, Professor Emeritus, Salisbury University

February is Black History Month, and at Delmarva's Own we're going to dedicate all three episodes this month to our black brothers and sisters, beginning with this one. Then, we're going to commit to continue to include them as part of the stories we tell moving forward as well.

Because the story of Black History formed the American story.

We cannot separate the history of our nation from the history of our black brothers and sisters, and I’d argue there is nowhere in the United States with a more meaningful impact on the story of Black Americans than there is right here on Delmarva.

This week we are joined by Dr. Clara Small to help us begin to dig in to the vast treasure-trove of history available to us. Who is Dr. Clara L. Small? She's a local historian who has dedicated her life to telling the story of black Americans from Delmarva. Professor Emeritus at Salisbury University, Hall spent 36 years teaching history in courses including World Civilizations, Civil Rights in American Society, African American History and related topics. It might be argued that she is the region's foremost scholar on the history of Black America on the Delmarva Peninsula.

Dr. Small has authored or co-authored 7 books, with her 8th due out before the leaves bud out on the trees this spring. Titles include:

  • Reality Check: Brief Biographies of African-Americans on Delmarva

  • Compass Points: Profiles & Biographies of African Americans from the Delmarva Peninsula, Volumes 1,2, & 3 [Publication Forthcoming]


  • Men of Color: To Arms! Manumitted Slaves and Free Blacks from the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland Who Served in the Civil War

  • They Wore Blue and Their Hearts Were Loyal: The United States Colored Troops of Dorchester County Maryland

Her work has garnered her acclaim and recognition resulting in numerous awards including:

  • University System of Maryland Regent’s Award for Public Service

  • Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore’s Frank H. Morris Humanitarian Award

  • The Harriet Tubman Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Small has also served as a member of the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture.

We're confident Dr. Small is the right guide as we journey into the past here on Delmarva.

While there are hundreds of people Dr. Small has written about in her books, in this episode we focus on two main figures and one group of Civil War Veterans of the Union Army.

To begin we discuss abolitionist Anna Marie Murray Douglas. If her last name sounds familiar, it should. She was the somewhat less famous wife of the voice of slavery, Frederick Douglas. As the Smithsonian Magazine suggests, Anna made Frederick's work possible in more ways than one. The daughter of manumitted slaves - that is, enslaved people who had been freed - Anna was a free black person herself. This meant she was able to work to make money and spend it as she wished. After meeting Frederick, she paid his way to freedom including spending money to secure the needed paperwork for a trip north, purchasing and tailoring a sailor's uniform to use as a disguise, and ultimately purchasing the goods they'd need to begin their married life together. In this podcast episode we discuss the Frederick's and Anna's life together and the impact Anna's support of Frederick had on his career.

We then move from the backbone of the abolition movement to the anthem of the Civil Right's movement of the 1950's and 60's. We Will Overcome, the song heard sung throughout the movement was adapted from a hymn written by Reverend Charles Tindley. Reverend Tindley was born In Berlin, Maryland. Tindley was self-taught, sometimes walking as many as 14 miles to acquire his reading materials and working as a church janitor to gain access to theology books. Podcast listeners will be able to hear two of his famous hymns including the aforementioned We Will Overcome, as well as Stand By Me, which was adapted into the 1960's hit of the same name by Ben E. King and the Drifters.

Finally, we spend a bit of time talking about the Unionville 18. This group of black Civil War Veterans fought for the Union army. In a twist of irony, Maryland sold slaves to the north to fight in the civil war at the cost of $300 each. You read that right.

Maryland slaves were sold to the north to fight for their freedom.

After the war these 18 previously enslaved veterans returned to the Eastern Shore and founded Unionville, Maryland, a town about 7 miles to the northwest of Easton. (Easton, for what it's worth, is the birthplace of Frederick Douglas. We like full circles on Delmarva's Own podcast.) According to Dr. Small, Unionville had no white residents until 2005.

That's an interesting fact to consider. A town established by 18 black Union Civil War veterans had no white residents almost a century and a half after its founding. Questions like this are difficult to address. But we must.

Dr. Small has forgotten more about the black history of Delmarva than I'll ever learn. She is an absolute wealth of knowledge. As impressive as her intellect is, what I appreciated her most is her ability to recognize the nuance involved in discussing difficult topics and questions. She doesn't stray away from the topics. On the contrary, she embraces the hard questions. Questions like, "Did the north buy slaves to fight in the war?" Or, " it true that blacks owned slaves too?"

Dr. Small encourages us to ask the difficult questions so we can come to a mutual understanding of the truth of the matter.

We at Delmarva's Own endeavor to do the same. We want to be able to ask the the difficult questions and be able to stand in tension with difficult answers. Because when it comes to discussing black history in the United States, particularly here on Delmarva, we need to be able to face the reality of our past.

Understanding where we come from will help us to move forward.

Dr. Small is available for lectures, interviews, and pretty much any other means of sharing her knowledge. She is available by email at You can find her books at your local library as well as at Salt Water Media. (Just search for her name on the drop-down list of authors.)

Updated: Jan 18

Major Jake Day is the Mayor of Salisbury, MD. Day grew up in Salisbury and knew from a young age that he wanted to be a part of the city’s leadership when he grew up.

We here at Delmarva’s Own haven’t done any research as to whether there’s an official training plan for becoming Mayor of one’s own town, but the first three decades of Day’s life might serve as an appropriate blueprint for doing so.

Day attended public school in Wicomico County graduating from James M. Bennett High School in Salisbury. Upon graduation he earned his degree in architecture at The University of Maryland, College Park. While doing so he served as the 2004-2005 National President of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) as well as the Editor-In-Chief of CRIT, the premier journal for students in architecture. (True to his educational roots, Day served as a keynote speaker at the 2016 AIAS Grassroots Leadership Conference in Washington, DC.)

Day’s graduate experience took him to Carnegie Mellon University where he earned a Master of Urban Design, and then to Oxford University for a Master of Science in Nature, Society, and Environmental Policy. Day graduated with distinction for his dissertation.

Throughout his pre-mayoral tenure, Day developed his leadership skills filling several roles in relation to architecture and urban design. A Richard Upjohn Fellow, he served on the American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Board of Directors. He has also served in various capacities with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), and Urban Dialogues, a growing design organization.

Upon returning to the Eastern Shore in 2008, Day entered the local workforce and worked for Partners for Livable Communities, Becker Morgan Group and Design Collective. In these roles Day offered his knowledge to help redesign and revitalize communities on the Eastern Shore. He continued this work with the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and as the Director of the Center for Towns - a program utilizing design, planning, and implementation assistance to establish vibrant, sustainable small cities and towns on the Eastern Shore.

In 2009 Day began to feel called to serve the United States military and enlisted in the Army Reserves. His is a graduate of Maneuver Captains Career Course, Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course, Officer Candidate School, and of course, Basic Combat Training at Fort Benning, GA.

In April of 2020, Mayor Day who then ranked as a Captain, was called into active duty. The call-up made him the third active mayor to be called into active service while sitting in office. He joined the like of former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, and Major Brent Taylor, Mayor of North Ogden, Utah. Major Taylor was tragically killed in November of 2018 while serving in Afghanistan.

Day was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, to serve as the deputy director of information operations and special technical operations chief for Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). After serving for roughly 6 months, in November of 2020, Captain Jake Day was promoted to the rank of Major. Delmarva’s Own Podcast caught up to him not long after the promotion.

This episode went live on Monday, January 18, 2021. Take a listen as you drive around town, catch up on your errands or chores, or whatever it is you do when you listen to podcasts.

You can follow Mayor Day at the following places:

Twitter: @jacobrday

Instagram: @jacobrday

Mayor’s Webpage:


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