Black History Month: A Dive Into Pier 4′s Rich History

Every February, our nation joins to celebrate our rich African-American culture and to reflect on important historical events and individuals.

As part of our annual Cultural Series, we will be celebrating the wealth of history that exists in our local community! In anticipation of our Black History Month celebration this Friday, we’d like to share an interesting story that involves icon Harriet Tubman and our very own Pier 4.

Maryland native Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad conductor, abolitionist and suffragist, is one of the lauded figures of American history.  From 1850 to 1860, she led hundreds to freedom, ultimately gaining her the nickname “Moses.”

Baltimore Inner Harbor 1850

A view of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in 1850.
Photo via Maryland Historical Society.

On October 21, 1856, Harriet Tubman helped a young woman named Tilly flee enslavement in Baltimore. Unable to safely bring Tilly to Philadelphia via a northeasterly route, Tubman cleverly devised a scheme to take Tilly on a southern steamboat route, eventually ending in Delaware.

The steamer Tubman intended to use was named Kent and was docked at Dugan’s Wharf (present-day Pier 4 – currently housing a portion of our facility).

Inner Harbor Map 1856

This map of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in 1856 shows where the Kent would dock. Image via Dr. Kate Larson.

The Kent made weekly trips to Maryland’s Eastern Shore and several Chesapeake Bay tributaries.Tubman and Tilly were able to safely make it onto the Kent and travel to Seaford, Delaware.

Eventually, the pair arrived in Wilmington, Delaware, where they met with an Underground Railroad agent who helped Tilly reach Philadelphia and her freedom.

Special thanks to Dr. Kate Larson and the Maryland Office of Tourism for gathering and sharing these facts with us. For more information on Harriet Tubman and her Maryland roots, click here.

The National Aquarium is proud to be a part of such a historically-rich community. We hope to see you at our upcoming Cultural Series celebration

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