WASHINGTON—Devoting a new exhibit to the ballistic device famously associated with the iconic abolitionist, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History announced Friday that it had just acquired the giant catapult that Harriet Tubman used to launch slaves to freedom. “We at the Smithsonian are honored to display the very catapult whose arm Harriet Tubman would pull back, load down with enslaved people, and release, flinging the occupants clear across the Mason-Dixon Line,” said museum director Anthea M. Hartig, who explained how Tubman used the device to escape bondage herself in 1849 and then made several return trips to her native Maryland, bravely pushing the massive, 200-pound catapult from plantation to plantation under cover of darkness. “Harriet would arrive in the dead of night and meet with slaves willing to make the dangerous journey through the sky to Philadelphia, New York, New England, and other places where slavery had been outlawed. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, she even reinforced her catapult so it could reach all the way to Canada, firing its payload across the border and beyond the legal reach of enslavers.” According to the museum, the exhibit also features an interactive catapult simulator that allows visitors to imagine what it might have been like to be lobbed through the air on the Underground Railroad.
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