Howard Co. police investigate break-in at historical school building as potential hate crime

Police in Howard County, Maryland, are investigating a break-in and vandalism at the Harriet Tubman Building that officials say happened sometime Monday or Tuesday.

Howard County police spokesperson Sherry Llewellyn said an unknown suspect or suspects broke into the building and damaged it overnight. Nothing was reported stolen.

Llewellyn said there were no signs of forced entry. She said the department is investigating every possibility that the attack may be racially motivated because of the building’s connection to Black history.

Bessie Bordenave, the president of the Harriet Tubman Foundation, told WBAL TV that she believes the break-in was a racially-motivated hate crime.

“Based on the things that I have seen here, I would say yes, this is a hate crime. Because it appears that nothing else was disturbed but things that related to our Black history and to our Black school,” she told WBAL TV.

Bordenave also said that parts of several classrooms have been damaged.

The Maryland Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Zainab Chaudry condemned the break-in in a statement released Thursday.

“The Harriet Tubman School is a symbolic part of the county’s history, and we reject this cowardly attempt to intimidate and invoke fear,” Chaudry wrote. “CAIR stands in solidarity with the Harriet Tubman Foundation and Black communities who are consistently targeted with racial intolerance and hate in Howard County and beyond.”

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball also released a statement Thursday via Facebook, saying: “As we work to renovate and create an impactful cultural center that will enrich our whole community, this act of violence is frustrating and upsetting. This site is where many Black Howard County residents received their education and is foundational to our strong legacy of public education here in Howard County.”

The building, which opened in 1949, was known for nearly two decades as Harriet Tubman High School. During its operation, it was one of the only schools in the county for Black students. Tubman closed in 1965.

The building is under renovation and will be converted into the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center, a site that will honor African American history in the county.

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