On Maryland’s Eastern Shore there is a historic marker that says Harriet Tubman freed 300 enslaved people.

Except she didn’t.

It also suggests she was born nearby.

Except she wasn’t.

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There are those who say it’s past time for the state to set the record straight on the woman known as “Moses.”

The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Church Creek, Maryland, recently had a special guest — Tubman, portrayed by Millicent Sparks.

[Maryland has hundreds of historical markers. Many don’t tell the whole story.]

“I was a conductor on the underground railroad,” Sparks, as Tubman, told the audience. “I guides my peoples from slavery to freedom.”

For more than 100 years, Tubman was credited with freeing 300 people. Maryland’s historical marker honoring Tubman uses that number. But it’s way off, according to Tubman biographer Kate Clifford Larson. She said the mistake originates from a book written by Sarah Bradford in 1869.

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Larson said, “She [Bradford] says ‘Harriet doesn’t remember how many people she rescued, but other people say she rescued 300 people in 19 trips.’ So it was manufactured way back.”

And it stuck.

Fast forward to the mid-1960s. Tubman had been all but forgotten in Dorchester County where she grew up. An Eastern Shore teenager wrote an article about her. It caught the eye of The Maryland Civil War Centennial Commission, which was looking for ways to mark the 100th anniversary.

Up went the marker, with the incorrect 300 number preserved in cast iron.

Douglas Mitchell, a Tubman Descendant, said he can live with a little bit of inaccuracy and incompleteness.

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“Because history is a living thing,” Mitchell said. “And it’s evolving.”

That evolving history now puts at 70 the number of people Tubman led to freedom. That came from Larson’s research for her 2003 Tubman biography “Bound for the Promised Land.” Larson said the lower number in no way diminishes Tubman’s legacy of freeing enslaved people. In fact, she said it makes Tubman’s story more personal.

Larson said, “Who are they? They were her family. The people she loved. So if we can tell that story, then people can see themselves. If you were in her position, who would you go rescue? Strangers? No, you’re going to go and rescue the people you love.”

Larson said the old sign needs to be taken down permanently and replaced with one that is accurate.

[How to retrace Harriet Tubman’s life on the Eastern Shore]

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Julie Schablitsky, the chief archaeologist for the state transportation department, said that should happen in a year or so. She said the state is working through a backlog of requests.

“History has been a lot of times corrected,” Schablitsky said. “We do plan to take some of these signs down and replace them with more accurate information.”

The Tubman marker also has her birth year wrong. The marker says 1820. She was born in 1822. It also uses the outdated word “slaves” rather than “enslaved.” And it insinuates it’s where she was born. Tubman was actually born more than 10 miles away.

Douglas Mitchell said some people who live near the current marker don’t want to give up the birthplace.

“People get emotionally attached to their narrative of history,” Mitchell said. “The history is this. And that’s the history I’m going to go with, even when they’re proven wrong.”

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The original marker is on a farm where Tubman lived. Even with the inaccuracies, Eastern Shore historian Phil Hesser said the marker serves a purpose.

Hesser said, “It’s a very good starting point for really understanding the dynamics of her story.”

Hesser said the farmland there can serve as an exercise for people to think back to when Tubman lived there, before she found freedom.

Schablitsky said the transportation department is planning to put up a second marker at Tubman’s birthplace.

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