San Diego’s NASSCO will build huge Navy ship to be named in honor of abolitionist Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery but escaped to freedom and helped more than 300 enslaved people escape via the Underground Railroad.
(Courtesy of Linda Lambiotte, U.S. Army Sustainment Command)

The 742-foot ship will become the latest of nine John Lewis-class fleet oilers to be named for civil rights leaders


A Navy fuel ship that’s scheduled to be built in San Diego will bear the name of the abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who helped hundreds of enslaved people escape from the American South in the 1800s along a secret route known as the Underground Railroad.

The decision was announced in mid-September by Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, maintaining the Navy’s practice of naming John Lewis-class fleet oilers after civil rights leaders and social activists.

“Harriet Tubman is more than deserving of this recognition,” Del Toro said in a statement. “She was born into unimaginable circumstances, but she dedicated her life to facing greater danger and adversity, becoming a ‘conductor of freedom’, helping others escape slavery.

“In addition, during the Civil War, Tubman was the first African American woman to serve formally in the military. 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.”

Her name will go on a 742-foot Navy oiler ship that General Dynamics-NASSCO will begin building on San Diego Bay in late 2025. The historic yard has already built, is building or has plans to construct eight other Lewis-class ships.

The other ships are named John Lewis, Harvey Milk, Earl Warren, Robert F. Kennedy, Lucy Stone, Sojourner Truth, Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Robert F. Kennedy will be launched into the bay this fall.


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