The school debuted the Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

The University of Maryland is honoring a civil rights giant with a specially-named academic department.

Last week, the college announced the debut of the Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. University President Darryl J. Pines addressed the decision in a campuswide letter dated September 4, on the grounds of recognizing important figures in social justice. It is also a first in the school's 164-year history to bestow an honorary name on a department.

"It is my honor to announce a major milestone in our university's history: the first honorific naming of an academic department at UMD, the Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies," Pines said. "It is fitting that this heroic Marylander is now honored at the state's flagship university."

Tubman was an activist and abolitionist who freed people from the bondage of slavery. Born enslaved in Maryland's Dorchester County, she escaped North to Philadelphia and journeyed to bring back family and friends through the Underground Railroad. Though perilous, she made the trek 13 times and freed over 70 people. She served the Union Army as a spy during the Civil War and was a celebrated speaker on civil rights. Her life was recently covered in the biopic Harriet starring Cynthia Erivo.

Considering Tubman's role later in life as a speaker on women's suffrage, it seems fitting for her to receive this tribute. The department is recognized for its focus on Black feminism and remains the only academic space offering a Black Women's Studies Minor in the nation.

"Historically, Black women have played a brave and critical role in social justice. Harriet Tubman's life and her dedication to freedom and equality speaks directly to the department's mission, now and in the years ahead."

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