OCEAN CITY – The first African American man to row across the Atlantic Ocean is now on a mission to rename a local waterway after Harriet Tubman.
In 2014, Victor Mooney began a 21-month rowing journey from the Canary Islands to New York City to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS research.
Upon reaching U.S. waters, he continued up the Eastern seaboard and across the Chesapeake Bay before rowing through the Virginia Inside Passage, the same waterway that guided Harriet Tubman – an abolitionist and Underground Railroad “conductor” – as she led those who were enslaved to freedom.
Now, Mooney and members of his group, the HR 1242 Resilience Project, are on a mission to have the waterway renamed in her honor.
“This particular passage was one that was taken by many people seeking freedom,” Mooney said. “Honoring Harriet Tubman in this special way would be a lasting tribute to her and another part of the healing process.”
The Virginia Inside Passage – 68 nautical miles of marshland and shallow bays – begins at the Chesapeake Bay, an entry point for many slave ships that arrived from West Africa, and leads to the waters off Ocean City and Delaware.
“As we know, Harriet Tubman followed the North Star, but she also mastered this terrain …,” Mooney said. “To have it right here in the waters off the Delmarva Peninsula makes it even more incredible.”
Mooney is president of the HR 1242 Resilience Project, named after a bill signed by President Donald Trump to commemorate and highlight the achievements and contributions of African Americans since 1619. He said efforts to rename the Virginia Inside Passage will recognize Tubman for her perseverance.
“This is the 400-year anniversary of African American history …,” he said. “With this event, renaming the Virginia Inside Passage, it’s very spiritual.”
Last weekend, Mooney kicked off a series of information sessions in Lewes, Del., Ocean City and Cape Charles, Va. He said the Resilience Project has also created an online petition to rename the waterway.
“Hopefully we can garner support and listen to folks to see how we can strengthen this concept and bring it to the decision makers that will ultimately make this decision,” he said. “These are info sessions that will share the initial concept of honoring a historic woman of enormous courage.”
Mooney said the goal is to have community members take ownership of the initiative and launch their own efforts.
“I’m not a resident of the Delmarva Peninsula, so this is an idea where I’ll pass the baton,” he said. “We are not the ownership of this idea.”
Mooney noted the initiative is another way to honor one of many African Americans for their contributions.
“We stand on the shoulders of many African Americans and Harriet Tubman is one of them,” he said. “We admire her for her strength and tenacity.”
For more information on the HR 1242 Resilience Project, or to sign the petition, visit www.hr1242resilience.com.
“She had great faith, and I’m hoping people will also extend their faith to bring this into fruition,” Mooney said.