Nearly 60 years after closing its doors, Columbia’s Harriet Tubman School will reopen this weekend, transformed into a cultural and educational center to showcase the historic contributions of Black Howard County residents.

A public dedication ceremony for the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at 8045 Harriet Tubman Lane, Columbia.

The Harriet Tubman Foundation will also host the annual Harriet Tubman Day celebration from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., on site, with food, music and other activities.

The cultural center and former junior/senior high school were named for Harriet Tubman, who was born into slavery in Dorchester County, escaped, and then served on more than a dozen missions to rescue another 70 slaves through a network of safe houses known as the Underground Railroad in the 1850s.

The foundation, led by Bessie Bordenave, a graduate of the Harriet Tubman School in 1962, has championed the history and preservation of the school since 2002.

Harriet Tubman School was the only all-black high school in Howard County, operating from 1949 to 1965. After it closed due to desegregation efforts, the school board 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 for preservation as a historic, educational, and cultural center.

More than $7.5 million was invested to transform the building, including $6.76 million 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 better future, full of more opportunity for all,” County Executive Calvin Ball said in a statement. “I am very grateful to the Harriet Tubman Foundation for their continued work to preserve our history.”

The completed cultural center includes a recreated classroom and principal’s office, art and photography exhibits and historical exhibits, and rental space including a 1,700-square-foot multi-purpose hall, auditorium and a recording studio.

The County Parks and Recreation Department will operate the facility. Visit to learn more.


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