US Navy to christen oiler named in honor of Civil War hero Harriet Tubman
Stars and Stripes September 18, 2023
A second U.S. Navy ship will bear the name of a celebrated abolitionist who was the first African American woman to formally serve in the military during the Civil War, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro recently announced.
The future USNS Harriet Tubman follows a tradition of naming John Lewis-class oilers after civil rights activists, Del Toro said in statement Sunday. The first ship to bear Tubman’s name was a Liberty vessel built during World War II, the Navy said.
“Her legacy deserves our nation’s continued recognition, and our fleet benefits from having her name emblazoned on the hull of one of our great ships,” Del Toro said in the statement.
Del Toro made the announcement during a celebration at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Church Creek, Md. The event commemorated the anniversary of Tubman’s initial decision to seek her freedom on Sept. 17, 1849.
After her escape, Tubman helped at least 70 men, women and children escape slavery while conducting them along the Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses and passages that led to freedom.
With courage and fortitude, Tubman served as a Union spy, scout, nurse and cook during the Civil War, according to the statement. She helped plan and execute a raid by Black Union troops that successfully freed more than 750 slaves, the Navy said.
She continued to advocate after the war for the rights of African Americans and women, speaking alongside Susan B. Anthony at several women’s suffrage events.
She died in 1913 and was buried at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, N.Y.
USNS Harriet Tubman is the ninth ship of its class and will be sponsored by the abolitionist’s great-great-great grandniece, Tina Wyatt, Del Toro said.
The class and its lead ship are named for the late civil rights leader and former U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. The oilers, which can carry up to 162,000 barrels of oil and have sizable dry cargo capacity, support the Navy’s carrier strike groups, according to the statement.