The Navy will name the ninth John Lewis-class oiler after American abolitionist and social activist Harriet Tubman.
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro announced the ship would bear Tubman’s name during an Emancipation Celebration at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Church Creek, Maryland, on Sunday.
“It’s an honor to maintain the naming tradition for our John Lewis-class oilers, and Harriet Tubman is more than deserving of this recognition,” Del Toro said, according to a Navy news release. “She was born into unimaginable circumstances, but she dedicated her life to facing great danger and adversity, becoming a ‘conductor of freedom’, helping others escape slavery.”
Tubman was born into slavery in 1822 in Maryland, but escaped to freedom in 1849. She went on to assist in liberating at least 70 men, women and children from slavery and became known as “Moses.”
Tubman also served as a Union spy, nurse and cook, and guided Union naval steamships carrying 300 Black troops during the raid on Combahee Ferry near Port Royal, South Carolina, in June 1863. More than 750 enslaved people were liberated as a result of that raid.
“In addition, during the Civil War, Tubman was the first African American woman to serve formally in the military,” Del Toro 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.”
Tubman’s great-great-great grandniece Tina Wyatt is the ship’s sponsor, meaning she will establish an enduring relationship with the crew and ship.
“Harriet Ross Tubman is a symbol of faith, freedom, family, democracy and love. Aunt Harriet’s legacy is an inspiration to a higher calling within us all, and overall, how we are enabled by sharing love for others and self,” Wyatt said, according to a Navy news release.
“Such a strong and dazzling example of symbolism in her honor, the naming of an oiler, a ship that supplies other ships with fuel and cargo to function at its highest level, is an example of what she gave in life and continues to give,” Wyatt said.
The oiler is the second U.S. Navy ship named after Tubman, the first being a Liberty ship from World War II. All John Lewis-class oilers are named after American civil rights leaders, in honor of Rep. John Lewis from Georgia.